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Deliberation or Simulated Deliberation?

Peter Levine (Tisch College, Tufts University

Response to Crocco, M. S., Segall, A., Halvorsen, A-L. S., & Jacobsen, R. J. “Deliberating Public Policy Issues with Adolescents:  Classroom Dynamics and Socio-Cultural Considerations.” Democracy & Education, 26(1), Article 3. Available at: http://democracyeducationjournal.org/home/vol26/iss1/3

The work of Crocco and her colleagues, “Deliberating Public Policy Issues with Adolescents,” combines two important fields—deliberative democracy and discussion as a pedagogy—with a study of policy deliberations in three classrooms. Their article yields valuable insights. As the authors note, the results are disappointing. This may be because the students were not actually asked to deliberate, if “deliberation” means discussing in order to make a decision. After all, the students could not decide US policy on immigration. Their discussion was a kind of simulated deliberation. Evidence suggests that we may see better results from real deliberations that occur within student-led voluntary associations or from simulated deliberations in which the students role-play powerful decision-makers, rather than playing themselves in a discussion that has no political impact.

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