Dr. Suzan Kavanoz, an assistant professor at Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul, was offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come to the U.S. for one year to study democracy in practice in teacher education programs. Receiving this kind of research funding is considered a tremendous reward in her country, and she is grateful for such an opportunity. Accepting the offer meant she had to make the tough decision to come to the states with her two young children and her mother who could help care for them, but without her husband who also is a professor.
“It was very hard for us because the children and I missed their father so much. We just hoped something could be worked out so that he could also come to the U.S. to study as well,” said Kavanoz.
She could have gone to any university in the country but was impressed by the enthusiasm and support she received from faculty at the College of Education and Human Development.
“Dr. Kavanoz contacted me over a year ago about working at UofL as a visiting scholar. She had a clear research agenda related to using education to enhance democratic values. I was delighted to have the opportunity to facilitate her research and work directly with Suzan. We can learn much from her experience as an educator,” stated Sam Stringfield, professor with the Department of Leadership, Foundations and Human Resource Education.
“Teacher education programs are growing in Turkish universities. At Yildiz Technical University, we are offering teacher education programs in different areas. Our certification programs are increasing and more teachers are needed. We need to learn more about teaching teachers how to teach in a very diverse culture.
“When I came to the U.S., I wanted to learn how you teach your teachers and work together in the classroom to solve differences. I want to use that knowledge and research to empower our own teachers to educate our young people,” said Kavanoz.
According to Kavanoz’s research, practicing deliberative democracy pedagogy will promote more inclusive dialogue, collaborative social and political actions and reasoning among teachers and students. Students will be able to develop more tolerant views by embodying these democratic principals in themselves.
Deliberative democracy motivates and teaches students to participate actively in democratic processes. This new understanding of democracy goes beyond the narrow conception of voting, representation and political power. Constant adaptation to new ideas and opinions, collaborative decision making and a willingness to compromise are the concepts of deliberative democracy that students and teachers learn. (Kavanoz, Democracy in Practice: In What Ways can Turkish and American Educators Learn from Each Other about How to Deal with Cultural, Racial, Religious and Gender Differences in the Classroom?, 2010).
“Democratic principles cannot be reduced to a concept as simple as ‘majority rules.’ It must be expanded to a deliberative democracy environment to be successful in today’s world,” said Kavanoz.
As Turkey becomes part of the European Union (EU), it is working to strengthen democratic ideals in its educational practices. Turkey has very delicate political and religious issues to negotiate in order to make this transition a success in its education systems. The Turkish Ministry of National Education (MONE) identified democratic education as a way for students to understand differences in backgrounds, learning styles, beliefs, and respect for human rights. It enables them to recognize their place in the world as well as develop knowledge and skills necessary for everyday life. (Kavanoz, Democracy in Practice: In What Ways can Turkish and American Educators Learn from Each Other about How to Deal with Cultural, Racial, Religious and Gender Differences in the Classroom?, 2010).
“We have a high percentage of young people in our population and the impact of their education is of major concern to our country’s future,” said Kavanoz.
“Dr. Kavanoz’s central interest is in how educators can teach students to be engaged citizens of a democracy. She hopes to learn how our educational practices can teach students to be participatory citizens in a deliberative democracy. In working with Dr. Kavanoz, American educators get an opportunity to further their own cultural understandings and reinvigorate their own efforts to teach students to be engaged citizens of a democracy,” stated Kristin Wilson, assistant professor with the Department of Leadership, Foundations and Human Resource Education.
On a side note: Dr. Kavanoz learned on her birthday in February that her husband would receive a sponsorship letter from the Physics Department in the College of Arts and Sciences and will be coming to the U.S. in March. The Kavanoz children are absolutely thrilled and can’t wait to see their dad.