‘Democratic Discourse’ is a reference to the concept of the contemporary German Philosopher Jürgen Habermas. I cannot claim any deep understanding of his philosophy (despite reading many of his books), but what I take from it is that we will move closer to positions of truth when we engage in discourse on key issues from positions of equality rather than positions of different levels of power.
Power may lie in a physical power in the case of a totalitarian state, or in a democratic state the power may lie in authority, whether it be that of Priest, Politician or Professor who claims to speak ‘truth’ on the basis of their position. It also differs from ‘Debate’ where the point is to win ones position by whatever means possible including false logic and invective. In summary, communicative discourse can be seen as a ‘loving struggle for truth’
In the case of education this philosophy goes back to John Dewey (1859-1952) and the concept of education for democracy.
I mention Australian because it provides the point from which the perspective comes. This country’s position as a small democratic nation that is a relatively prosperous and peaceful island on the ‘underside’ of the world helps Australians reflect on some of the big issues confronting others. We claim, and still largely practice, an egalitarianism, but inequality is growing. We also have dark aspects including: our past and continuing treatment of Indigenous Australians; our treatment of refugees; and the insignificant amount our Federal Government spends on aid to the world’s underprivileged.
See Australia : An Overview for a background to our Geography, History and Institutions.
Finally I mention the author’s name, because I believe each of us must take responsibility for our own opinions and understand that all of us come to discussion with our own preconceptions.
About The Author
I was born in 1943, at a time when Australia with USA support was fighting the Japanese in the Pacific. I grew up in an industrial suburb some 8 kilometres from the heart of Sydney.
My father was a labourer, first in a paper mill and then a timber yard. In my early years I was very involved in the local Methodist Church and became a Local Preacher. While values remain from this time, I am no longer involved in any particular religion but retain an interest in religion in general.
After school I did a Science degree, majoring in the Biological Sciences at the University of New South Wales. I taught Science and Maths in secondary schools for a few years then did an Arts Degree, with a major in History, at Sydney University. Following that I taught mainly History in Public (Government) schools but also have taught English, Legal Studies and Studies of Religion.
I spent about thirty years teaching, with the last third of this being a Head of Humanities Departments in Secondary Schools in Western Sydney. I have also been a major contributor to many textbooks used in Secondary Schools in New South Wales and Nationally.
I retired from teaching in 2006 but remained involved with Educational and Cultural Associations, which are on the Links page.