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Democracy in theory and action in the classroom

We read an interesting letter to the editor of the Indianapolis Star today, arguing that we must model democracy in our schools in addition to teaching it as an academic exercise in order for students to truly learn the value of the principles.  Here is an excerpt:

In contrast, England enacted the Citizenship Order. Research showed when schools “take into account students’ ideas and opinions in ways that are transparent, regular, and accessible,” school climate and grades improve. Schools are mandated to have a viable student council where students share real-world responsibilities. It appears the British believe learning about democratic citizenship must be more than an academic exercise.

The Institute for Democracy in Education believes an authentic civic education will remove the contradictions in our culture — which embrace democratic ends for schools but resist the actual practice in schools of the democratic means from which the ends cannot be separated.

Read the full text here: http://www.indystar.com/article/201009260245/OPINION01/9260335


Education in citizenship

by Richard D. Erlich

In a fine brief article from 2008 published in my local paper as, “Disturbing signs in California’s public schools,” Dan Walters of The Sacramento Bee_ stated that “The fundamental goal of public education, one assumes, is to educate kids well enough to earn high school diplomas that signify readiness to enter the work force, secure additional educational training and/or pursue a college-level education” (_Ventura County Star_ June 16: B6). And then Mr. Walters offers evidence that California’s public schools fail to achieve that goal.

That’s bad, but I think things are worse than Mr. Walters suggests–if “one assumes” more than those relatively modest goals.

This “one” doesn’t assume that the “fundamental goal of public education,” paid for by the public through the state, is to serve the economy or individuals or just to prepare people for more schooling. I’ll go with the tradition of Thomas Jefferson and say that the (small “r”) republican state puts up money for public education in part because it’s good for commerce but mostly because an educated public is essential for the survival of the republican state.

Educating the people to be citizens is necessary for “Securing the Republic.”