Practical Wisdom and Democratic Education

Practical Wisdom and Democratic Education

By Anthony Hudson.

For colleagues with an interest in democratic education and the experiences of mature learners, the recently published: Practical Wisdom and Democratic Education: Phronesis, Art and Non-Traditional Students, will be of value.

Drawing on the Aristotelian concept of phronesis, or practical wisdom, the book builds on the work of Basil Bernstein to analyse the stories of four mature students studying for degrees in art and design. The authors, Dr Sam Broadhead and Prof. Maggie Gregson, argue that democratic education should allow participants to feel enhanced, included and able to engage in order to create a constructive and reciprocal dialogue.

Since many vocational and academic disciplines require deliberation and the ability to draw on knowledge, character and experience, it is important that learners do not feel that their experience disadvantages them. However, as Bernstein (1970) noted ‘education cannot compensate for society.’ Fulfilling learners’ pedagogic rights alone is not sufficient, institutions and policy makers have a moral duty  to listen to students marginalised by current practices.


Bernstein, B. (1970). ‘Education cannot compensate for society.’ New Society, 15 (387): 344-47.



About Tony Hudson

Currently undertaking doctoral research at the University of East London focusing on the learning career and academic identity of Access HE teachers.
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