Contesting Utopianism: Hannah Arendt and the Tensions of Democratic Education
Throughout the twentieth century, a diverse group of educational scholars struggled against what they saw as fundamentally undemocratic schools and an only nominally democratic society. John Dewey understood that tremendous obstacles stood in the way of the development of a more democratic society. This chapter discusses some key similarities and differences between Hannah Arendt and Dewey. Arendt's model of the public serves as an instructive corrective to problematic "utopian" tendencies in the current literature on democracy and education. The chapter examines a comprehensive effort to initiate youth into a vibrant practice of citizen politics that resonates with much of Arendt's vision. The key aspect of Arendt's vision that is missing from the Public Achievement model, however, is the tension she saw as perhaps most important of all: that between chaos and control. Certainly the Public Achievement model is not the only way one might imagine developing public spaces in educational settings.