Democracy and Higher Ed

Just back from a very intense three-day meeting on higher ed and democracy.  We — theorists and convenors of deliberative democracy — were brainstorming a network that would focus the academy’s attention on deliberative democracy.  To turn a phrase of the Kettering Foundation, “What kind of higher education does a public need in order for democracy to flourish?”  By democracy most everyone meant more than the apparatus of voting; we meant the kinds of participation in which members of a political community could have a hand in shaping their common world.  It is so easy to get absorbed in the usual way in which politics is conceived — as a matter of what governments do, not what publics do — that it’s easy to think of democracy as something “over there,” not right here in the ways in which we are always already involved in making our common world.