Radicalizing Democratic Education: Unity and Dissent in Wartime

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In the summer of 2002, Israeli students took their final exams toward a high-school diploma. At seventeen or eighteen, just before gaining their voting rights and beginning their military service, the civic studies exam confronted them with the question: “explain why conscientious objection is subversive.” With the stroke of a pen, decades of democratic deliberation on the balance between conscience and compliance, between majority rule and minority dissent, were eradicated. The students were presented with the conclusion, veiling a demand to condemn soldiers who refuse to serve in the occupied territories. At a culminating point of their civic education, they were expected to explain why opposing the decisions of a democratic government, in the context of war, is treacherous.

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Philosophy of Education
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This article was originally published as Sigal Ben-Porath, "Radicalizing Democratic Education: Unity and Dissent in Wartime," in Philosophy of Education 2003, ed. Kal Alston (Urbana, Illinois: Philosophy of Education Society, 2004), 245-253. Reprinted by permission of the Philosophy of Education Society. NOTE: At the time of the publication, author Sigal R. Ben-Porath was affilicated with Princeton University. Currently (December 2006), she is a faculty member at the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.
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