Thursday, April 25, 2013

What is a democratic republic?

Today, Shane Vander Hart at American Principles Project posted a copy of the the new C3 social studies standards.  He skimmed and found several places for concern and encouraged readers to read the text. So I did.

I didn't get very far before I hit a snag.  In the first paragraph of the Introduction on p. 4 ,
In the College, Career, and Civil Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies Standards the call for students to become more prepared for the challenges of college and career is united with a third element: a preparation for civic life.  Advocates of citizenship education cross the political spectrum, but they are bound by a common belief that our democratic republic will not sustain unless students are aware of their changing cultural and physical environments; know the past; read,write, and think deeply; and act in ways that promote the common good.  There will always be differing perspectives on these objectives. The goal of knowledgeable, thinking, and active citizens, however is universal.  
Democratic republic? The term confused me.  I knew the term Democratic, as in Democratic Party.  I knew the term, republic, as a form of government.  But I had never put the terms together. 

My mind instantly went to the famous quote by Benjamin Franklin when someone asked him at the close of the Constitutional Convention what form of government do we have - a republic or a monarchy?  He replied, "A republic if you can keep it."

I googled democratic republic, truly expecting to find a long list of places where I could find a definition.  The first that popped up was Wikipedia,
"A democratic republic is a country that is both a republic and a democracy. It is one where ultimate authority and power is derived from the citizens. However, in practice countries that describe themselves as democratic republics do not always hold free or fair elections."
Okay, I agree with what you're thinking--that's wikipedia and not exactly credible.  But that's the problem. There was no other source for a quality definition.   So I typed in "democratic republic definition": 

democratic republic  

Web definitions
People's Republic (also Popular Republic, especially in other languages) is a title that has often been used by Marxist-Leninist...
No much better and probably a little worse.  So I typed in "democratic republic United States" again expecting a long list of sources to help me out and received no help at all.

I went to World results found.  (Incidentally, you can search democratic republic Marx Engel and get quite a bit of information but I was sincerely looking for an "objective" definition.)

I gave up and scrolled the standards to find a definition.  I landed in the Civics section on  pg. 29 hoping from some clarity and maybe even a definition.  I didn't get either one. 
"In a constitutional democracy productive civic engagement requires knowledge of the history, principles and foundations of our American democracy. 
So is the United States a democratic republic, a constitutional democracy, or a democracy? 

Ben Franklin called it a Republic, can't we just keep it?


Jennifer said...


Sally Canzoneri said...

Hope you don't mind my commenting here, by way of replying to your Tweets yesterday. It would have taken me so many Tweets to say what I want to say that I'd probably get sent to the Twitter Gulag for looking like a spammer.

First, I want make it clear that I too am very much opposed to the whole Common Core regime, though I'm fairly sure I have a different perspective than yours. Second, I haven't had a chance to review the proposed Social Studies standards, and I wasn't trying to defend them when I replied to your tweet. I was speculating and in a hurry.

When I got home last night & saw your tweets replying to mine, I thought I should check into the definition more. I found what I think is a good explanation of the term "democratic republic" at This definition puts the term in the context of the American Revolution, with citations to Thomas Paine and The Federalist Papers.

I also want to mention that there are actually a lot of liberals who are opposed to the Common Core regime -- and for much the same reasons as conservatives. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, for example, has already filed suit against DOE over the collection of student data. And there was a big gathering in DC last week protesting this whole package (CCS, the new testing, and the Big Data part). If you look at Diane Ravitch's blog, and Chalk Face blog, you'll find people who can't stand the "reformers" like Michelle Rhee & David Coleman (main author of CCS). They tend to see the CCS regime as a conspiracy being carried out by the "education-industrial complex", Bill Gates, Arnie Duncan, Barack Obama, & others; but they are just as worried about student privacy and top-down Federally mandated "reform" of education as you are.

I think that it would help tremendously if the CCS opponents who follow Michelle Malkin and the opponents who follow Diane Radvitch started working together. These groups may be on opposite sides regarding other issues, but on this issue their basic concerns are the same. Moreover, though their concerns are the same, the two groups have different strengths and weaknesses; so they complement one another and can be more effective working together than separately.

Some other liberal tweeters, like @thechalkface, have been tweeting in the StopCommonCore hash mark recently, hoping to get conservatives working with liberals in fighting the Common Core regime. I hope you and other conservatives will at least consider working with people like us.

This issue is not only about curriculum or state control; it is about a plan to dramatically restructure the American educational system. Aside from other problems, this will cost billions of dollars that can be spent doing things that would be more helpful to children.

At this point, the implementation of the restructuring plan is well underway, with laws passed, regulations adopted, contracts signed, funds committed, databases set up, lots of good press, and soooo much money donated by people who have soooo much more money available to them. (Like Bill Gates & Eli Broad, before you even think about Pearson or McGraw Hill.) And there are well-funded Conservative groups that are happy with the CCS, along with high-stakes testing, vouchers, & charter schools.

Given all the momentum and resources that proponents of the Common Core regime have, it isn't going to be easy to stop them. But the chances of stopping them will grow if their opponents work together with one another to fight the Common Core.

Best Regards,

Spunky said...


When I clicked on your link it was to the term "republic democracy" which is NOT the same as a Demoratic Republic. Democracy and demcoratic cannot be used interchangeably.

Republic is from the revolution and I referenced the Benjamin Franklin quote but there are several others I could have chosen. The federalist papers has specific quotes warning against a direct democracy.

Yes, I am fully aware that there are many liberals against the Common Core. And I say, welcome. I also read Ravitch and have for years along with several other more progressive websites. I've learned much from them. I have also read chalkface and linked to him several times. If you'd like to pass my name along, I'd be glad to link arms.

If you look back at my archives you'll note I started my blog in 2005 and pretty much started taking about the dangers of national standards back then. That was when Bush was in office. I'm an equal opportunity offender. I saw what was coming down the pike and I wanted as many people to know as I could.

I'll keep writing and working to defeat or die trying. But I"m not giving up.