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A.F.T. Seeks To Foster Teaching Of Democratic Ideas Worldwide

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Responding to requests from teachers in Eastern Europe and in countries elsewhere emerging from years of political repression, the American Federation of Teachers last week announced the formation of a project to disseminate information about democracy.

The Education for Democracy/International project builds on the union's existing Education for Democracy program, launched in 1987 to advocate strengthening the teaching of democratic values in the United States.

The international project will produce a series of guidebooks for teachers and students explaining the meaning of democracy and examining the roles of the press, education, economics, and law in a free society.

In addition to disseminating materials written by American educators, the project will conduct seminars on democratic unionism for teachers in other countries who are seeking to build free unions.

The international project begins this week as a pilot program in Poland, where a.f.t. employees will provide training in the principles of democratic unionism to members of Teachers' Solidarity, the education branch of that nation's pioneering independent union.

The aft has also provided such training in Hungary. (See Education Week, Nov. 22, 1989.)

Diane Ravitch, an adjunct professor of history and education at Co4lumbia University's Teachers College and co-chairman of an advisory panel for the project, said there is a great need for "simple, but not simplistic" information about democratic practices.

"These are people who need to understand how to bring a question to a vote," she explained.

The international project also plans to develop "democracy readers" featuring historical documents such as the Bill of Rights and lesson plans to help teachers discuss them.

The organizers envision hosting seminars and assisting in developing social-sciences curricula built around democratic ideas.

And to help American teachers discuss the sweeping changes in Eastern Europe with their students, the project will provide information packets to interested teachers, beginning next month.

The international and U.S. democracy projects plan to co-sponsor classroom-to-classroom programs to link students and teachers in the United States with their counterparts in Poland and Hungary.--ab

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