Citizens choose their leaders. That is the basic idea of democracy as we know it. That means the mindset, values and perspectives of citizens can be interpreted by their political orientation. So, what conclusion can we draw from the fact that Donald Trump is fighting in the presidency debate and might become president of the USA?

Education and Values
Education shapes minds. No matter what educational concept is followed, it has an immense impact on what a society thinks. In our western societies, most people undergo between 9 and 12 years of school, five days a week. That’s a lot. Values and opinions evolve over time, and this process is much more complex than many of us think. What is important is the ability to understand and critically review the taught information. But how could education influence this?

Values and Democracy
The concept of democratic education is based on the universal human rights. Democratic decisions are based on information. But information is shaped by the environment, media and educational institutions. The aim of democratic education therefore to teach those values of tolerance and equity, hand in hand with the ability to question and view content critically. It holds the potential to combat hate, frustration and ignorance.

If a society is heavily favouring an opinion leader like Trump, the question is whether the educational environment can support the development of reflective decision making based on values that cohere with the human rights.

Democracy and Trump
Values of a society truly reflect whether it is in favour of the democratic idea, opinions, ideals and values reflected by its people. Much more than the official status of a nation. Donald Trump is a result of an upwelling and unhappiness about the democracy, showing that the democratic values are not truly representing people’s needs, showing democracy is not practiced “right”. He has a strong hatred for minorities, women and his opponents. And he is heard! A sign of lacking democracy.

People feel they are not heard and represented by the current government. Neither are they appropriately supported to be independent, responsible and legitimate actors in their society (See Why Democracy Needs Education). Functionality of a democracy is based on the ability to take decisions, built upon good information and critical reflection.

They want to make America great again, and welcome the radical way Donald promotes. Many of his statements aim to feed the fire of frustration, but are neither informative, nor connected to democratic ideals. Yet, the problem of failing democracy is not solved with him becoming president.

Democratic education can be the tool to empower people to heal social conflicts. It can help to expose people to a wider, less biased/media influenced source of information to provide better possibilities on their own opinion-making. Trump is a warning sign, a waking call that we must change our approach on education to create a “true” democratic society.

“Informing in order to know. Knowing in order to act. Acting in order to treat.”