The population that makes up the structure we call “school” can be placed on a continuum to show the way in which each individual is contributing to the development (or hindrance) of democracy. Point blank: each individual needs to be knowledgeable of the fact that he or she can push schools further towards a democratic entity, but they must be cognizant of the fact that schools were originally constructed as opponents to democracy. Of course, educational historians would love to have you believe that one of the original purposes of schooling was to teach people how to behave in a democracy, but that opinion seems to work in stark contrast to rows, grades, standards, and an emphasis on conformity rather than original thought and cognitive development.
Perhaps the original proponents of schooling were more realistic about what it took to be successful in a democracy. That’s why everyone was trained to act as a widget and obtain a line of work by acting as a cog in the machine and performing the same rote task over and over again. Mix in a little discussion of history and citizenship and, all of a sudden, the misconception of what a democratic state is supposed to be comes to fruition. I would even go so far as to say that this type of educational schooling and pedagogy is what resulted in low turnouts for elections. Contrast this rote methodology in schools to what occurs today and one can see how students are working towards more “voice” and choice when it comes to how they act and learn. The students have become empowered through technology and, now that adults view them as a force to reckon with, have become more involved in discussing politics and improving voter turnout.
Every other adult in schools falls into one category for me when it comes to advancing democracy in schools: catalyst. If we all take a stake in helping students understand that their voice is important and that they have options when it comes to their education. It is almost as if adults in schools need to steal some Marxism and push towards a Proletariat Revolution by the students. The more that we urge kids to speak their minds, demand more options, and contribute positively to their education, the more pressure is put on the system to mold education based on a democratic state rather than a dictatorship.
Without question, many would resist and attempt to put down this type of insurrection by students. Our purpose, as catalysts needs to continue to be pushing students in the democratic direction while taking on those that would like to maintain the status quo. If education is to move the way of a democratic state, it will take the kids to ask for it, fight for it, and force it down the throats of those who are currently in charge. Similar to that of a King, no leaders of buildings, districts, or countries want to lose the power that they have “earned”. This needs to change.
Recently, I read a tweet that made the following statement: the 21st century is a bad time to be a control freak. We need to start preaching that in our schools. Every teacher should feel it is his or her role to subvert the curriculum and prompt students to demand choice and democracy within the structure. It’s time for students to say enough with the uniform curriculum, enough with the uniform scope and sequence, enough with the rows, and enough with the hierarchy.