Pathways for Successful Democratic Interactions
Treating each other as free, equal and capable is a diachronic trust
that treating, people as free, equal and capable will make it so.
It is a goal that regulates our present behavior. It will
sometimes fail and we will face challenges that test and strain this
rule. We may, in some instances be forced to abandon it, but it
is the default stance and general rule we ought to apply.
Respect cashed out as careful listening, offering responses within the
other’s reach, and trying on other’s beliefs, no matter how strange or
• Using language and
interpretation of others’ language that searches out pathways for
agreement and a furtherance of trust useful for future discussion.
• Discussion and interaction that seeks polite rational argument not based on insults or deception.
All persons are capable of learning and change, treating them as such
will elicit learning and change in others and ourselves.
Rules and Democracy
is a practice. At every turn, at every interaction with another
person of any age or position, you attempt to implement the democratic
actions of listening, offering, and creative problem solving.
This does not imply a free-for-all. Rules and expectations such as
fairness, respect and encouraging feedback are values needed to fulfill
the democratic procedure and democratic outcomes. The procedures
and outcomes are intertwined, democratic procedures promote democratic
outcomes, and vice versa. We must promote both at once and
always. The democratic procedures and outcomes are not conundrums
to be reconciled, but valued productive instruments.
both as a political system and as a private mode of life, is the best
tool to give us the good life. It is close to a necessity.
Democracy is the practice that I can follow, and if others follow to,
will most likely give us the good lives we want, while giving everyone
else the best chance at the good life as well. This is not an a
priori deductive argument such as a problem of math or logic.
Such arguments fail. It is an inductive argument; based on the
full knowledge of the world, the bountiful possibilities of human
nature, present human actualities and causal pathways between these
If you want the good life, then you must be willing
to aim for the conditions that allow the good life for all, if you
expect to justify yourself to everyone. Only if you are not
forced to justify yourself in a exchange of reasons, or cut off from
knowledge of the situations of such others, can you hobble along
attempting to achieve your circumscribed goals while imposing, or
supporting practices, that deny the good life to others. And
moreover, that good life will be in a measure impoverished, because it
is not aware of what it is doing to others, and it loses out on the
expanding interactions and growth that democratic practice
brings. Hence democracy means justifying yourself to the rest of
society, whether literally or producing that conversation in the
Democracy and Education
and human development and hence Democracy is, at its core, an
invitation as equals to further exploration, with the teacher, parent,
scientist, and citizen showing the varying strengths of successful
paths and exploring new ones, rather than giving instructions to follow
without further interaction or questioning.
provisional paths of varying certainties, whether yelling at the child
not to run into the street, advising a teenager not to try meth,
suggesting a book to a college student or encouraging a grandmother to
participate in a town meeting, must be used because they are the
pathways that create capable and learning adults who will in turn
become healthy and wise parents and teachers. People, whether
stunted or wise, are formed by interactions, mainly with other people,
and since we cannot develop healthy humans, let alone any humans,
without such interactions, we should be planful about which ones to use
and we should not be afraid to judiciously experiment with such
pathways that will create better teachers parents, scientists and