The local school board is one of America’s enduring venues of lay democracy at work. In Democracy, Deliberation, and Education, Robert Asen takes the pulse of this democratic exemplar through an in-depth study of three local school boards in Wisconsin. In so doing, Asen identifies the broader democratic ideal in the most parochial of American settings.
Conducted over two years across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines, Asen’s research reveals as much about the possibilities and pitfalls of local democracy as it does about educational policy. From issues as old as racial integration and as contemporary as the recognition of the Gay-Straight Alliance in high schools, Democracy, Deliberation, and Education illustrates how ordinary folks build and sustain their vision for a community and its future through consequential public decision making.
For all the research on school boards conducted in recent years, no other project so directly addresses school boards as deliberative policymaking bodies. Democracy, Deliberation, and Education draws from 250 school-board meetings and 31 interviews with board members and administrators to offer insight into participants’ varied understandings of their roles in the complex mechanism of governance.