Deliberative children in democracy : classrooms, schools and streets

  • Kei Nishiyama

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The central topic of this thesis is children’s participation in democracy. The thesis
problematises the pervasive understanding of children conceptualised as “future”
citizens, and redefines children’s democratic potential from the perspective of
deliberative democracy.
The thesis shows that the existing literature on children’s democratic participation relies
on a narrow conception of an adult-initiated and forum-based participation and pays only
a limited attention to children’s participation happening outside the forum. This thesis
offers a critical expansion of this view by focusing on children’s deliberative activities in
various other spaces including classrooms, schools, and streets. Although these spaces
have generally been considered as non-deliberative or non-participatory spaces, the recent
innovations taking place in these spaces (e.g. new deliberative curriculum, new form of
teenage protests) invite us to re-evaluate their democratic potential. The thesis offers one
such evaluation by using interpretive research methods and the “deliberative systems”
framework. It explores the ways in which children engage in deliberative activities in
classrooms, schools, and streets.
Empirically, the thesis draws on a variety of case studies from Japan, including the cases
of classroom deliberation (Philosophy for Children) as practiced in two private schools
in Japan, various activities of deliberation taking place in and beyond schools (The Future
Talk, Ari to Pla), and the contemporary case of teenage protests (T-ns SOWL). By
mapping and analysing children’s different activities in these spaces, the thesis reveals
the crucial role children play in facilitating inclusion in public space, triggering
deliberation across society, and creating a democratic community in their lives. On the
basis of the in-depth analysis of various case studies, the thesis suggests redefining and
understanding children as deliberators in deliberative systems. The thesis concludes by
providing empirically-grounded normative insights and recommendations about how
deliberative democracy, children’s democratic participation, and democratic education
can and should be designed and practiced in contemporary societies
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJohn Dryzek (Supervisor) & Selen Ayirtman Ercan (Supervisor)

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