Deliberative democracy surfaces disagreements so that people holding conflicting stances understand each other’s reasons for the purpose of decision-making. Democratic education approaches should provide students with the opportunity to learn and practice how to address conflict in the collective decision-making process. In this paper, I examine the Foxfire Course for Teachers, a professional development retreat in which teachers learn to practice democratic teaching by themselves experiencing democratic decision-making. In particular, a series of disagreements among course participants is analyzed in detail to understand the learning that resulted and the conditions that supported that learning. As a result of this experiential learning opportunity, teachers came to realize the importance of allowing students to experience and reason through disagreement although it may cause discomfort. Teachers also came to view democratic participation as a developmental process that requires practice.

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Steven P. Camicia, Understanding Conflict in Education for Democracy