Democracy is a form of associated living that fosters the growth of the individual through her participation in social affairs. Free, reflective, critical inquiry and the welfare of others undergird interaction, communion, and community building. Unlike authoritarian modes of government, democracy requires its members to participate in the political, social, cultural, and economic institutions affecting their development and, unlike authoritarian countries, democracies believe in the capacity of ordinary individuals to direct the affairs of their communities, especially their schools.
The trajectory our schools now follow does not bode well for democracy. The No Child Left Behind Act produces a hyper-productive, blindly obedient, worksheet completing citizenry, one capable of voting for American Idols, but one unable to recognize larger threats to humanity. In place of NCLB, Americans must develop education for democratic participation, a type of education that helps children mature into intelligent, critical, engaged, reflective, and compassionate members of their schools and communities.
Active participation in institutions prevents authoritarianism and allows for individual and community re-creation and growth. Privatizing or standardizing institutions does quite the opposite.