Democracy has a different meaning for different people. For most people it means the right to speak out and express their opinion. In our present dark education times we have plenty to speak up about, whether it is high stakes testing or unfair cuts to education. Unfortunately, we do not always allow our students to speak out about ways we educate them in the classroom.
If we want our students to truly understand democracy we need to allow them to speak up in the classroom (and the school) because it is their right to do so. Teachers can easily teach students the proper ways to question authority and decisions. It is a life skill that they need to understand how to do.
Very often when I have to make decisions that affect our whole school, there will be students who ask me if they can discuss the decision with me, which I welcome. I want students to know that they can come to me, even if they disagree with something I did. They are not being disrespectful; they are practicing their right to question.
Too often in schools we get upset with students when they disagree with our rules. Other times we are disheartened in the way in which they disagree with us. We vilify parents who do not agree with how we educate their children. Public schools are open to public opinion, even if that opinion does not coincide with our very own.
The only way we can grow as a public institution is to find common ground with all of our stakeholders. Public schools need to be a model of democracy in action.
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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.