Updated 2020-02-13

Freed to Learn: Five Fundamental Concepts of Democratic Education

Leo J. Fahey identifies five aspects that he argues are fundamental to a democratic education: self-direction, emotional readiness, student choice, learning to learn, and community self-governance.
Leo J. Fahey author
Fahey, L. (2008). Freed to Learn: Five Fundamental Concepts of Democratic Education. Journal of Unschooling and Alternative Learning, 2(3), 17-26. Retrieved from https://jual.nipissingu.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/25/2014/06/v2132.pdf


Children are natural learners each with distinct interests, abilities and rates of cognitive, emotional and social growth. Democratic education institutionalizes five key concepts to free these natural instincts and individual differences to drive community self-governance and individual Self-Directed learning within a formal schooling environment. This paper summarizes the five concepts fundamental to democratic education and suggests how they can be applied within a school setting.

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