Dobozy, E. (2007). The learning of democratic values: How four 'out-of-the-ordinary schools' do it. Frenchs Forest, NSW, Australia: Pearson Education. (ISBN 10 0 7339 8932 2; ISBN 13 978 0 7339 8932 2)
In her book The Learning of Democratic Values, Eva Dobozy enables the reader to make the connection between International Human Rights and the day-to-day experiences of children in school. She provides a succinct account of the history of international human rights and challenges the reader to think more deeply about the role of administrators and the classroom teachers in actively developing democratic values; and in fostering appropriate moral behaviour in the school context. The snapshots of the four schools as sites for socialisation provide the reader with ample food for thought about what democracy looks like in action. This provides a realistic analysis of the constraints imposed by the school as an institution, private or public sectors of education, and the expectations of the associated community regarding discipline and the learning of democratic values. In moving the reader from rhetoric to reality, Dobozy cautions that children, in our democratic society, are expected to be competent in their school learning and yet considered to be extremely vulnerable in a changing and often unpredictable world. Dobozy argues for healthy debate between adults and children in challenging and transforming oppressive cultures that may hinder holistic growth toward caring and responsible individuals.
The format of the book with its initial chapter objectives and summative "what the primary teacher ought to consider" and box for "personal notes" provided a focus for thinking more deeply about human rights and ways to effect the learning of moral values through modelling, teaching, debate, and practice. Such that, in this democratic process, each child might begin to internalise the need to acknowledge the rights of others; and to take responsibility by considering the consequences of his/her actions on others, particularly peers at this stage of development.
Notwithstanding, given the general engaging tenor of the book on encouraging debate in the learning of democratic values, I found the imperative "As a primary school teacher you ought to:" at the end of each chapter somewhat dictatorial. I should have preferred to have been given an invitation at the end of each chapter to all concerned adults in the school community "please consider your role and beliefs as a primary teacher/administrator/parent in relation to ...". Food for thought!
I would suggest that it is an ideal textbook for pre-service teachers, practising teachers, and administrators. It should also appeal to those generally interested in the child's learning of, and application of, democratic values in school and the family.
Dr Lesley P. Newhouse-Maiden
Adjunct Senior Lecturer
Faculty of Education and the Arts
Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia