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Leadership and Activism, Learning at its Best, Philosophical Meanderings

Structures for Democracy?

In one of my very first blog posts ever, I spoke to the rules I used to have in my kindergarten classroom.   See Rules-Schools Have Too Many! I agree with one of my commenters that these are rules for life.

  1. Be Safe.
  2. Be Considerate.
  3. Be a Thinker.

And, I believe that if all people followed those three rules throughout their lives, we would have a democratic society that honored individuality without the inadvertent consequence that our schools currently have–that many students are turned off to learning through our test prep, our “training” them in how to beat multiple choice tests, and the very brief shallow glimpses we allow them into the basic tenets of American history and the foundations of our country.

(BTW, please remember, a multiple-choice test taking strategy being taught students is that if you have no clue, you choose the longest answer.)

Would you rather your child use flash cards to learn the answer to this question,

Which of the following documents began with  “We The People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…”

a.) the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America

b.) The Gettysburg Address

c.) The Declaration of Independence

d. ) none of the above

Or would you rather your children participate in a discussion–or role play–or debate–or make a web page–or podcast–or write a blog entry– that used the Interactive Constitution and discussed

a.) who the founding fathers meant by “We The People”

b.) What the 16, 19th and 26th amendment did for the phrase “We The People”, and

c.) why we say the constitution is a living document.

Wouldn’t you like your son or daughter to learn about the Constitution by thinking of it as “The Words We Live By“? (That’s the name of an annotated guide to the Constitution, by the way.)

What does that conversation have to do with the students we teach? Well, if they UNDERSTOOD DEEPLY  the Constitution’s cornerstones and the foundational beliefs behind it, wouldn’t that go a long way to provide the structures for a democratic school?

And, since language DOES matter, and the language of both the Preamble and the Constitution is studied carefully to determine the meaning and purpose behind them, then shouldn’t we do the same as educators and think carefully when we describe what we want for our students?


About Paula White

grandma, teacher, Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE), DEN STAR, Google Certified Teacher, camper, Gifted Resource Tchr, NETS*T certified, lover of learning


3 thoughts on “Structures for Democracy?

  1. Paula, as a true opponent of multiple choice tests, I loved how you showed that we all aspire to more than simply picking the ‘right’ answer.

    The example you used really hits at the heart of both a strong democracy and strong education system.

    Posted by Joe Bower | March 9, 2010, 8:42 pm
  2. That’s a great example, Puala, of shifting learning away from knowledge about history to the analysis of democracy.

    I wonder how many time we, myself most definitely included, have offered students a prompt like, “If you could run class . . . ,” as just another academic exercise, the metacognitive payoffs of which teacher authority promptly contradicts and undercuts.

    I wonder how many student directed discussions about the Constitution would naturally lead to conversations about class rules and the kinds of communities kids want to have. I wonder how long it would take to hash out a working constitution for a class. I wonder if we feel like we could take that time.

    Certainly we should, and we should ask and work for schools that support such work.

    Many thanks for posting!

    Posted by Chad Sansing | March 10, 2010, 6:08 am
  3. History tells us that rules are needed for appalling behavior …after all a “COLORED” woman in once wanted to sit down and only front seats on the bus were left…a police officer very kindly and politely told her she couldn’t, AFTER ALL it was the law, and the law is designed because we care a lot about our people’s safety. The woman got mouthy and disrespectful and continued breaking the law!! IMAGINE THE APALLING BEHAVIOR HAD TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE!!! The woman was arrested ofcourse.
    In Germany a student refused to wear the yellow star on his blazer, a very polite person in charge of the school told the student they had to wear it, the student refused, got mouthy and rude…IMAGINE THE APALLING BEHAVIOR HAD TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE!! The student was sent somewhere to end that rude behavior.
    A carpenter many years ago was helping people on the Sabbath which was the day nobody could do anything, he was also helping lepers and preventing stonings of bad women and other things against the Law…IMAGINE THE APPALLING BEHAVIOR HAD TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE, apparently he was crucified to end the behavior and set an example..
    A teenager who did not have a yellow bracelet was walking the track in a cancer relay for life walk, his friend looked spanish, and there was a group of teens with them (always a dangerous group to be in, ) the rule was that under 18 they were required to wear a bracelet after midnigh, some gentlemen in charge asked them to leave very politely, the spanish comment the kids thought they heard was a misunderstanding, so even if they did not ask them who they were or if they were 18, Maybe they had been drinking??? they had to be kicked out because we care about the safety of our youth…after all leaving those youth in the street or in jail is the best way to care for them… the teens got mouthy and upset…IMAGINE THE APPALLING BEHAVIOR HAD TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE!! The police were called.

    Just a few reasons why kids have to be paddled in some schools, why kent state happened, why we continue to enforce zero tolerance and accountability. why we strive for ‘accountability” with grades and tests, why we have pages and pages of codes of conducts and strict rules on curriculum and standarized tests…Why kids can’t have choices, must obey rules, must not talk back or complain,
    …after all how else are we going to get respect and so how are students going to learn?? by giving respect ?? by leading by example?? By caring enough to mentor and listen and understand and help improve??? By stooping to the needs of a child or a teen or an adult for that matter?? By second chances or lifelines, by making students feel loved and cared for?? By letting them do what they want or like??? By a democratic fair way where rights are the same fo all?? By not assuming the worst in people ?? By not helping create elite casts and outcasts?? LUDICROUS!!

    Posted by norma | May 26, 2010, 1:53 pm

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