How serious are we – U.S. schools and educators – about educating citizens for our American democracy?
How many of our schools allow for, or even promote, student governments that model and mirror the three-part system of our governmental system?
Imagine a high school that elected two senators for each grade level. Imagine that high school electing representatives for each grade level, based on population of the grade level. Or perhaps advisories or homerooms could provide for the “state” structure to mimic.
What if there were a true judiciary of the student body, elected and appointed just in the same mechanisms as our U.S., state, and municipal judiciaries?
What if there were a true executive branch of the student government, elected and empowered in the same manner and mechanism as our President, governors, and mayors?
Imagine that such a system started in elementary school, progressed through middle school, and culminated in high school.
Over the years, how might our democratic citizenship be “practiced” in the ways of leading and participating in our civic structure and responsibilities?
Imagine a student or group of students who became so passionate about such an idea that they made it happen. Image if they lived the lessons they are being taught in U.S. History and Government classes.
What system of government are students actually practicing in school? Is it a representative democracy? Is it a relative dictatorship? I wonder what that’s teaching them over 13 years.
What if they lived and practiced the system that we want them to take responsibility for? What if we operated school in the ways that would more authentically educate a citizen of our democracy?
Imagine. Make happen. What are the possibilities?
I am thinking of writing a series of blog posts about project ideas that could happen within a school – projects that could both transform school and, ultimately, transform us beyond school. This is my first prototype. I’d love to know what you think.
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I love this idea, but you probably already assumed that! Pushing this just a bit farther, and recognizing that finding the right balance between big leaps and small steps in all of our initiatives, what are the other components of life that should be reflected within the school day? Living a democracy makes sense (and in my mind reframes an original purpose of American education-to build our citizenry). What other life frames make sense? This would be an interesting question to ponder with faculty.
Some immediate ponderings: how might we live family/parenting life in school? how might we live neighborhood/community life in school? how might we live a global life in school? how might we live an inner life in school? If our school was placed “under the dome” (I watched that show once or twice on TV), how might we create our own systems of living without connection with the greater world?
Democracy isn’t really a life frame, but it is a frame for us as Americans. To extend, what other frames do we wish our students to “live?” Rather than run down the road that looks like silos, my thoughts go to these: An expressive one, a playful one, a reflective one, a purposeful one, and a caring one. Certainly more Yes, ands to be included…
Very cool idea you have about replicating democracy in school. Our students initiated and implemented a daily school wide meeting they chair, to participate and vote on all matters of school life: budget, hiring, admissions, discipline, programming, and more. They also replicated the Judicial Committee and Tribune components of the Sudbury Valley School. We are iterating this aspect of civic life in school and welcome your input and collaboration. Likewise, we offer our student Co-Founders to your project, should you desire their collaboration.
Dr. Lee-Anne Gray
Founder and Executive Director, The Connect Group
Co-Founder The Connect Group School
“Imagine. Make happen. What are the possibilities?” Stealing this from you. Thanks for the daily inspiration and wisdom! 🙂
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