The Last Best Hope: A Democracy Reader


Sponsored by the Institute for Educational Inquiry

What are the conditions necessary for democracy to exist and flourish? Is democracy a sustainable ideal? What does individual freedom mean in a democracy? What is the relationship between democracy and morality? What roles does or should education play in a democratic society? Address some of the most important issues confronting democracy in the twenty-first century with this comprehensive ...

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Sponsored by the Institute for Educational Inquiry

What are the conditions necessary for democracy to exist and flourish? Is democracy a sustainable ideal? What does individual freedom mean in a democracy? What is the relationship between democracy and morality? What roles does or should education play in a democratic society? Address some of the most important issues confronting democracy in the twenty-first century with this comprehensive anthology.

In addition to providing a provocative view of a complex subject, this collection will also be invaluable to anyone seeking a general introduction and overview of contemporary thought on the subject of democracy and education. Democracy demands of its citizens the ability to discuss, debate, and learn from one another. The Last Best Hope, a companion volume to Developing Democratic Character in the Young, encourages and makes a major contribution to such discourse.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"These essays will challenge groups of democratic readers to examine their social and political assumptions, and in so doing will enable them to strengthen their commitment to the quality of democratic life. The Last Best Hope is a call to reflective action." (Stanley N. Katz, professor, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, and professor emeritus, American Council of Learned Societies)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787956813
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 3/6/2001
  • Series: Jossey-Bass Education Series
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

STEPHEN JOHN GOODLAD is a writer and philosopher whose interests center on the relationships between environmentalism, ecology, and democracy and, in turn, the implications of those relationships for education and schooling.

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Read an Excerpt


THE LAST BEST HOPE: A DEMOCRACY READER is designed to serve two purposes. First, it presents the basic themes and ideas essential to a critical understanding of the relationship between democracy and education. Second, it develops and elaborates on some of those themes and ideas in a manner that we hope will generate on going study and discussion.

This is not a "debate" book. That is, it does not attempt to present the pros and cons of every issue raised. Although the text does contain opposing views, it also represents a particular take on its subjects. That said, if any single, guiding principle has informed the selection of works for inclusion in this collection, it has been that the readings should serve to stimulate discussion and debate among the book's readers.

Many of the ideas introduced in The Last Best Hope center on the tensions among what might be described as oppositional forces. For instance, we look at the relationship between democracy and the "uncontrolled market" (as one author describes it), between education and the environment, between law and justice, and between democratic character and what Michael Oakeshott calls the "mass man." The themes developed include the concept of humans as social animals engaged in the project of learning to live together on a finite planet, the place of democracy within this project, and democracy as not just a political concept but as a concept that embodies a unique social structure, a unique set of behaviors, a moral and ethical framework, and a citizenry that is distinguished by particular qualities or characteristics.

In addition to elaborating on certain ideas and developing particular themes more fully, The Last Best Hope also examines a number of important questions such as What conditions are necessary for democracy to exist and flourish? Is democracy a sustainable ideal? What does individual freedom mean in a democratic society? What are democratic virtues? What does it mean to live democratically? What is the relationship between democracy and morality? Why are imagination and creativity vital to promoting and sustaining democratic societies? What role does or should education play in a democracy? And what makes a democratic society (as opposed to merely a political system) different from other societies?

Why a Democracy Reader?

The chapters in The Last Best Hope were selected in large part because they correspond to major themes, concerns, and ideas that emerged in a series of discussions sponsored by the Institute for Educational Inquiry in Seattle, Washington, on the subject of developing democratic character in the young. These discussions began in fall 1997 and continued into spring 1999. Workgroup members were Mary Catherine Bateson, Beno CsapĆ³, John I. Goodlad, Robert Hoffert, Stanley Katz, Nel Noddings, Roger Soder, Kathleen Staudt, Paul Theobald, and Julie Underwood. The group's work resulted in a book, edited by Roger Soder, John I. Goodlad, and Timothy J. McMannon, entitled Developing Democratic Character in the Young. As that book neared completion, it became evident to the authors that they were drawing from-- and building on-- ideas, information, and arguments that could not be adequately explored in the context of that volume. It was felt that this subject matter deserved a book of its own. Thus emerged the idea for The Last Best Hope.

About the Book

The Last Best Hope is organized into seven parts. Each part contains two or three chapters. In Part One, the first chapter, by Neil Postman, asks what we mean when we use the word democracy and why democracy might be an especially suitable and desirable form of government for human societies. The second chapter, by Benjamin R. Barber, explains why one cannot talk about democracy without also talking about education.

Part Two begins with a chapter by Robert D. Putnam that asks, What makes democracy work? We then examine the democratic virtues in a chapter by C. Douglas Lummis. Part Two concludes with Robert D. Kaplan's consideration of the question, Was democracy just a moment?

Part Three explores the concept of democratic character. We begin with Michael Oakeshott's essay on the masses in representative democracy. We then look at a chapter from Boyd H. Bode's Democracy as a Way of Life. Part Three concludes with Martin Buber's thoughts on the education of character.

Part Four raises several important issues that affect democracy and its citizens. Noam Chomsky provides a brief but important glimpse of some of the major issues of our time. Howard Zinn then explores some of the differences between law and justice in a democratic society. We conclude with Wendell Berry's thoughts on the goals and purposes of American education-- what they are and what they were intended to be.

Part Five explores approaches that might help us to address some of the issues raised in the preceding chapters. It begins with John Dewey's look at democracy and human nature. Philip Green then explores the notion of egalitarian solidarity. The section concludes with Mark Johnson's discussion of the moral imagination.

Part Six focuses on democracy, the environment, and the schools, beginning with Chet Bowers's explanation of how colleges of education package the myth of modernity. Amy Gutmann follows with a chapter on democratic education in difficult times. Our consideration of education as a public good concludes with David W. Orr asking the not-so-simple question, What is education for?

The two chapters in Part Seven look ahead by offering a glimpse of both the possible and the necessary. The first chapter, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, presents examples of two people who are translating their principles and ideas into action in an effort to make a better world for all of us. The book concludes with Mary Midgley's chapter on practical utopianism-- what it is and why we need it.

Footnotes and citations have been reproduced as they appeared in the original versions of these selections. This has been done to help those interested in pursuing particular topics in greater depth as well as to assist educators who want to develop curricula focusing on either education and democracy in general or any of the subtopics introduced. In a few cases, notes have been added for clarity.

Democracy demands of its citizens the ability to discuss, to debate, and to learn from one another. To the extent to which this book encourages and contributes to such discourse, it can be measured a success.


Seattle, Washington
December 2000
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Table of Contents

Source Texts.

Introduction (S. Goodlad).


The Editor


Democracy (N. Postman).

An Aristocracy of Everyone (B. Barber).


What Makes Democracy Work? (R. Putnam).

The Democratic Virtues (C. Lummis).

Was Democracy Just a Moment? (R. Kaplan).


The Masses in Representative Democracy (M. Oakeshott)

Reorientation in Education (B. Bode).

The Education of Character (M. Buber).


Market Democracy in a Neoliberal Order (N. Chomsky).

Law and Justice (H. Zinn).

Jefferson, Morrill, and the Upper Crust (W. Berry).


Democracy and Human Nature (J. Dewey).

Egalitarian Solidarity (P. Green).

Moral Imagination (M. Johnson).


How Colleges of Education Package the Myth of Modernity (C. Bowers).

Democratic Education in Difficult Times (A. Gutmann).

What Is Education For? (D. Orr).


The Domain of the Future (M. Csikszentmihalyi).

Practical Utopianism (M. Midgley).


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