PES 2023 Conference

Theme: Democratic Education in Undemocratic Times

March 2-6, 2023
Chicago, IL


“Democratic Education in Undemocratic Times”

2023 Annual Meeting of the Philosophy of Education Society

March 2-6, 2023

Chicago, Illinois

We are planning a dynamic and exciting conference, which will be held in Chicago on March 2-6, 2023 (the conference will be held at the historic Palmer House Hilton). We invite papers and session proposals for all topics in philosophy of education. To encourage focused conversations, we also invite contributors to consider this year’s theme, “Democratic Education in Undemocratic Times.”This is a pivotal moment for democracy around the world, and, by extension, for democratic education. The contours of our current democratic crisis are increasingly familiar: sharply partisan politics, the rise of authoritarianism, attacks on voting rights and free elections, increasingly undeliberative discourse, and the erosion of democratic values.

Schools and universities are not immune to these challenges. Justice-oriented education efforts— especially focused on race and the persistence of racism in society, as well as on gender and sexual diversity—have increasingly come under attack in primary, secondary, and higher education settings. Such challenges are not necessarily new. Public education is an inescapably political arena, characterized by deep and persistent conflicts over resources, recognition, and power. Debates about public education are more than technical questions about how to teach and learn effectively; rather, such debates are also moral and political questions about what should be taught, how, to whom, for what ends, and on what authority.

In a similar political moment, John Dewey warned, in his 1927 The Public and Its Problems, that democracy lives or dies based on its citizens’ ability to deliberate well: to engage in the inquiry, analysis, and communication necessary for informed and thoughtful participation in government, community, and society.1 Yet, in this fractured and polarized political moment, such calls for more democratic deliberation may seem quaint, even naïve. Is democratic deliberation possible?  How might we understand the relationship between democracy and political conflict? As scholars have noted, dissent can create openings for expanded political participation, particularly among citizens who may be disengaged from public life.2 Yet what kind of democratic education, and democratic engagement, does the education system require amid severe and radical cultural, political, and social polarization?

Should we aim for our work to bolster democratic education, even as we critique democratic schools as mere “illusion”?3 How might democracy contend with deep and persistent inequalities and injustices? How, too, might we wrestle with the deep and central contradictions at the heart of the democratic project, what Eddie Glaude describes as “the lie,” the myth of Black inferiority, as well as the belief that our nation-states are “fundamentally good and innocent, its bad deeds dismissed as mistakes corrected on the way to ‘a more perfect union.’”4

What ideas of democracy—and democratic education—are necessary in this socio-political time? And what role should philosophers of education play in this moment? Can philosophers of education still talk about the “democratic” purposes of education? Or are democratic societies – and their education systems – so far removed from democratic ideals as to render those democratic purposes meaningless?

While we welcome all submissions, with this theme, we hope to foster a renewed conversation about the connections between philosophy of education and democracy. What are they? What ought they to be? We especially encourage explorations that speak to the broader community of education scholars and policymakers.

Deadline for all submissions: November 1, 2022 (submission information and links will be available on the conference’s website during the summer of 2022). We welcome all topics, and areas of inquiry, for papers or symposia (i.e., ‘alternative’) sessions, whether they engage the theme or not. Submission possibilities include the following formats:

  •  Paper Submissions:Papers may not exceed 4,500 words, including footnotes, and must be written in proper PES form (see the Style Guide). Authors should make certain that references to their name, institutional affiliation, or work (e.g., “As I have argued on many occasions…”) are omitted from the paper, including the notes. Authors’ identifying information will not be available to reviewers. General and concurrent session papers reviewed and accepted by the Program Committee, and invited responses to them, are published in Philosophy of Education, the Society’s quarterly journal.
  • Symposia Sessions: Examples include symposium sessions organized around a central topic or question, roundtables, ‘author-meets-critics’ sessions, performances, interviews, or other artistic and creative sessions. Proposals may not exceed 1,000 words, excluding references. If the session being proposed involves multiple presenters, please specify the contribution of each presenter. Criteria for review of all alternative sessions and works include originality and clarity of motivating question or idea, potential interaction with session attendees, and relevance/importance to educational philosophy and educational policy and practice.
  • Work-in-Progress Sessions - These sessions group scholars with work-in-progress in an informal collaborative setting. Proposals should detail the question or claim being investigated, relevant sources/resources, likely direction, and mode(s) of analysis. Criteria for review include clarity and significance of the question/claim, suitability of sources/resources, suitability of mode(s) of analysis, and potential for thinking anew about issues in the field of educational philosophy.

For questions, please contact: Terri S. Wilson, Program Chair, at

Pre-Conference Paper Workshop on “Civic Education” with Educational Theory

Proposal Deadline: September 15, 2022

Scholars are also invited to submit proposals for consideration for a pre-conference paper workshop, in collaboration with Educational Theory. Civic education efforts are under attack. For instance, in the U.S. context, at least 200 “education gag orders” have been proposed in at least 40 state legislatures; 14 states have passed bills that prohibit teaching about racial inequality, white privilege, gender identity and a range of other topics.5 Such bills increasingly target teachers, threatening to fire, sue or sanction educators or education leaders for failing to enforce such standards, or for failing to present a range of “diverse and contending” viewpoints. Such challenges are a direct attack on efforts to advance race-conscious, equity-oriented educational curricula, practices and policies. Under the guise of political neutrality and “teaching both sides,” conservative activists have effectively limited the work of many teachers and schools. Such efforts have particularly impacted the teaching of social studies, history, and civics. This pre-conference workshop will focus on connections between philosophy of education and civic education. We particularly welcome collaborative proposals that bring philosophy into conversation with social studies, history, and civics educators, and teacher educators.

The pre-conference session presents a special scholarly opportunity to engage with colleagues about your and their work, with the goal of creating an intellectual community around the theme of civic education. Papers will be workshopped before the conference (March 1-2, 2023) and considered for publication in a special issue of Educational Theory. Paper proposals (1000 words, excluding references) are due on September 15, 2022. (Decisions will be made by October 15, and those not selected for the workshop will be encouraged to submit papers, or “works-in-progress” sessions to the PES conference).

The conference team is excited to connect with you through your scholarship and at PES!


1. Dewey, John, The Public and its Problems: An Essay in Political Inquiry. (Melvin L. Rogers, Editor). Penn State Press, 2012 [1927].

2. For instance, see: Chantal Mouffe, The Democratic Paradox (New York: Verso, 2000), 34; cited in Kathleen Knight Abowitz, "Achieving Public Schools," Educational Theory 61, no. 4 (2011): 467-489; Sarah Stitzlein, Teaching for dissent: Citizenship education and political activism. Routledge, 2015.

3. Doris Santoro, “Teacher Education in the Contact Zone: The Integrity of Recruiting Educators of Color within the Context of the Bad Character of Schools.” Paper presented at the Philosophy of Education Society Annual Conference, San José, CA, 2022.

4. Eddie S. Glaude Jr, Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and its Urgent Lessons for our own. Crown, 2020, p. 8. 

5. Data compiled by PEN America, May 31, 2022. [Link].

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