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"If democracy is going to work, it's got to be practised in school as well as talked about."

Derry Hannam in conversation with Rosemary Bechler and Margarete Hentze at the 2016 World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg.

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On Testocracies:

"Testocracy: a market driven education system that is based on private companies selling their curriculum products, lobbying governments to buy their curriculum products for their schools systems, offering them to provide high stales standardised tests on the standardised curriculum products, collecting and selling their data to government. Using this to create a teacher-school accountability system, so that teachers can be fired if their teachers don't get high enough scores in the tests, or their salary increase can be withheld, head teachers can be fired etc etc."

On Citizenship Education in England:

“I would not claim to be a professional researcher, but when Citizenship Education was being introduced in England and David Blunkett was the Minister, his adviser was a man called Bernard Crick who had been his tutor when Blunkett went to university. Blunkett was blind and nothing was expected of him in terms of intellect or education. I think he was trained to be a piano tuner. Anyway, I worked closely with Bernard Crick and I’d persuaded him of what I’ve said here, that if democracy is going to work it has got to be practised in school as well as talked about. So into the curriculum framework for Citizenship in 2000 came the descriptor, ‘Participation and Responsible Action.’ That was to go into the curriculum for all students in English secondary schools. They were to have the opportunity to participate in democratic decision-making and take responsible action. As soon as this was published, the right wing went for Blunkett. The Chief Inspector at the time, Chris Woodhead, said that “this was madness, people would be taking democratic decisions in schools when they should be learning maths…”.

On Ammersee:

“Because of the success in the Summerhill case in England, I often get asked “will you come and help us with a crisis we are having with the inspectors in this country or this country. Three years ago I got involved in Denmark and the Netherlands. I thought that Denmark would be the easier of the two because of their tradition of open schooling, free schooling, parental involvement in schools. In fact it proved very difficult in Denmark, but in the Netherlands it was interesting. Initially the two Sudbury Valley model schools were closed, but the people who had started the schools, Peter Hartkamp who is here and his wife Crystal, kept on arguing and eventually the inspectors listened, because they then started another school with the full support of the inspectors, and the inspectors are now using it to train inspectors in alternative approaches to education. So that is a lovely story from the Netherlands and I would say that  this should be the model that Ammersee should pursue in Munich.”

A class at Sudbury School Ammersee.

openDemocracy is at this year's World Forum for Democracy, exploring the relationship between education and democracy with a youth newsroom. More here.
About the authors

Derry Hannam is a retired head teacher and long-term school inspector in the United Kingdom. He studied educational science at Oxford University and is a consultant, researcher and advisor to the Council of Europe and the governments of the United Kingdom, Malta and Finland in Education for Democratic Citizenship (EDC). He has been described as a ‘bridge person’ who tries to bring about dialogue between the democratic education movement and state or public school systems, a role that he has played in Finland, Puerto Rico, The Netherlands, Bavaria and, most recently, Spain and Poland.

Margarete Hentze is an artist and filmmaker. She is the director of Doing Nothing All Day, a film about the democratic education movement.

RB, editor

Rosemary Bechler is a mainsite editor of openDemocracy, and a member of the coordinating committee of DiEM25.

Read On

openDemocracy will be at this year's World Forum for Democracy, exploring the relationship between education and democracy (see the programme for more details).


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