Looking back at the so-called Arab Spring, one sees people across these countries where the uprisings took place (e.g., Libya) still enduring political repression and change, a growth in threats of terror, and conflicts between tribes and militias, all of which have led to constant violence and a struggle for power. Events in Libya in 2019 suggest that there is an urgent need for education about democracy—a culture of creating a positive environment among people, increasing their awareness of their community, and helping them make decisions and achieve their goals. The qualities a democratic education set out to develop such a positive environment, and undoubtedly schools should be the place where all of this should begin. However, the supreme leader of Libya (Al-Qaddafi) used education in mainstream schools as a propaganda tool for his dictatorship; perhaps this is why the role of schools in Libya has been far removed from cultivating the practices necessary to maintain democratic values. Hence, the idea of democracy was not fostered from within its mainstream school system. A strong need exists to move away from schools that reproduce authoritarianism and toward schools that consciously encourage the notions of democratic skills, values, and behaviors within the classroom and the school as a whole. At present, mainstream schools in Libya are still predominantly organized along authoritarian, hierarchical, and bureaucratic lines; consequently, they continue teaching obedience and submission rather than encouraging freedom of thought and responsibility. The traditional methods of teaching, which focus on rote learning to pass exams instead of fostering creative and independent thinking, are still heavily used. Thus, teachers have a moral responsibility to use education to advocate for democracy, empowering students to learn about democratic values and prepare them to participate in democracy and become better citizens.
The reform of public education through the application of principles of free-market capitalism, particularly notions of competition and choice, has long enjoyed bipartisan support in the United States, reflecting trends in other industrialized countries. The basic assumption is that the competitive pressures of the market, instantiated through various forms of school choice and high-stakes accountability, will necessarily lead to more efficient and effective schools while honoring parents’ right to determine what is best for their children. Concurrently, another group of educational reformers, advocating for the rights of students with disabilities, have pushed for the transformation of schools, with the goal of creating spaces congenial to the range of human differences, including disability. The problem is that the basic assumptions that underpin free-market reforms and the principles of inclusion are incompatible. One of the requirements of school choice, for example, is the production and marketing of data based on standardized assessment practices and standardized curricula. This tendency toward standardization in market-oriented schools, saturated with the ideology of normality, is antithetical to the conception of diversity that informs the desire for inclusive schools.