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Democracy and Education: How Online Education Fuels Equality

The role of education and an effective educational system in a democratically ruled state has been the subject of great debate throughout the centuries. Democracy, or the rule of the people by the people, has its foundations in the Greek city-state of Athens where the concept of one citizen-one vote was first proposed and adopted.

While many might argue that Athenian democracy was somewhat limited in that there were 30,000 citizens or so but also countless thousands of slaves and non-citizens for whom democracy was but a chimera. Yet, for the period and the age, Athenian democracy was revolutionary and dynamic and relied on the institution of education and educated citizens in order to make its democracy work. This then, is the role that education plays in the American democracy but with much greater integration into the democratic system and online education is currently fueling even greater spread and penetration of democracy around the globe.

Education in any aspect might be considered the twin sister to democratic forms of government. The United States government observes that education is one of the primary principles of democracy because education is a basic human right and that all democracies have an obligation to provide all citizens with basic human rights.

However, education's role in democratic governments goes much further than being a mere service delivery of the government. Education makes democracy work by educating citizens in the principles of governance, enabling literacy, transmission of democratic values and beliefs, and by engendering a free press. With these qualities in mind, it can be seen that online education accomplishes all these particular imperatives and more.

Online education is the pure democratization of education because most people would admit that while the educational system in America, for example, has been a pillar of democracy for many years the education system itself is not democratically run or structured. All that has changed now with the advent of online education and the brave new world it brings with it, to quote Aldous Huxley.

Traditional education systems, even within vibrant democracies like the United States, are hierarchically arranged and ruled by fiat with students told what to do and instructed on what to take and where. While certainly these traditional education formats are valuable and have been effective, they have not been democratically operated in and of themselves.

Online education awards students with a voice and a vote so to speak that allows them to state their opinions by choosing which programs to take, which courses to enroll in, and when and where to study. The benefit is that online education can effectively teach any topic that is offered in a traditional educational venue but actually expands the functionality and experience of the learner because of the format's access to online educational devices such as video, video-conferencing, hyperlinked sources, research databases, and an infinite network of colleagues.

This access to programs, material, and media in online education is the quality that makes online education indispensable to democracy because democracy is all about choices. Noam Chomsky says, in a lecture delivered at Loyola University in 1994, that democracy and education are both dependent on and guarantors of choice in society. With this in mind then it is plain that online education is not only critical to American style liberal democracy but is also a manifestation of the growth of democracy in the 21st century because it literally makes no distinction in terms of class, income bracket, or celebrity.












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