Developing a Democratic Praxis[Editor’s note: This post is Part III of an essay by Michael Johnson–Developing a Democratic Praxis. In it he focuses on the key educational factors necessary for building cultures of “small ‘d’ democracy” in communities and regions across the country. In Part I he argues that culture is a powerful factor in political and economic dynamics, but currently almost all strategic thinking focuses just on structures and systems. In Part II he outlines an alternative cultural/structural strategy for cooperative/solidarity economic and other democratic movements for deep change. His essay has been submitted to The Next System’s essay contest. An overview of the whole essay is on his blog.]
Building deeper and more resilient local democratic cultures through ongoing civic/popular education programs
Here I will be laying out what I consider to be the core elements and principle guidelines for civic/popular programs for democratic praxis. First, some definitions.
The Center for Civic Education provides this short description of “civic education:”
Civic Education in a democracy is education in self government. Democratic self government means that citizens are actively involved in their own governance; they do not just passively accept the dictums of others or acquiesce to the demands of others… Membership implies participation, but not participation for participation’s sake. Citizen participation in a democratic society must be based on informed, critical reflection, and on the understanding and acceptance of the rights and responsibilities that go with that membership. 
The Popular Education News provided this brief description of popular education from Bob Hale’s College for Social Justice : Participants’ Handbook:
“The idea of popular education (often described as “education for critical consciousness”) as a teaching methodology came from a Brazilian educator and writer named Paulo Freire, who was writing in the context of literacy education for poor and politically disempowered people in his country. It’s different from formal education (in schools, for example) and informal education (learning by living) in that it is a process which aims to empower people who feel marginalized socially and politically to take control of their own learning and to effect social change.”