Creating Caring and Just Democratic Schools to Prevent Extremism

Doret de Ruyter, Stijn Sieckelinck

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Secondary schools are well placed to avert radicalization processes toward extremism because such trajectories often begin in adolescence. Adolescents are in the process of forming their identities, and most adolescents are idealistic, which makes them susceptible to groups that passionately pursue utopian visions. To avert the path toward extremism, Doret de Ruyter and Stijn Sieckelinck propose to balance a prevention approach with a positive educative ethos that is sensitive to the emotions involved in students' quest for meaning in life and identity formation. This involves schools being places where all students experience that they matter and where they can express their passion for their ideals and experiment with their identities without being ridiculed; at the same time, schools must guide students in learning that not everything they value will be accepted and that they must also take into account the interests and rights of others. The schools' role is thus complex and precarious, and teachers are in a position of navigating a politically sensitive minefield daily. Therefore, any theoretical proposition regarding what schools can realistically do to prevent extremism must be informed by everyday educational practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-433
JournalEducational Theory
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


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