Why Democratic Classrooms?

September 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

There is one point that the majority of people in this nation will agree upon, and that is there is a need for change in education.  We may disagree on what that change needs to be,   and how to bring it about, but the reason for the change is simple enough. We all want to ensure our students are prepared for success.  This is important to the future of our democratic nation.  There are many indicators that our current education system is no longer working effectively.

The concept of a democratic classroom first caught my attention when I attended Educon 2.2 in 2010, an education conference hosted by Chris Lehmann and the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.  I attended one of the conference “conversations” facilitated by Matt Baird and Doug Herman  that focused on the concept of a Democratic Classroom. The following year, at Educon 2.3, I revisited this concept during the panel discussion, “Can Schools Support Student Innovation?” It occurred to me then that SLA is an outstanding example of what a Democratic School should be. It is a place where students own the learning.

We live in a democratic nation, where all people have rights, as well as responsibilities.  The democracy grows stronger when the people play an active, participatory role, rather than a passive one.  So what happens when we apply these democratic principles to the school or the classroom?  Might this help move students towards ownership of their learning? Could this ultimately bring about the change in education we are all seeking?

The idea of a democratic classroom is certainly not new.  John Dewey’s seminal work  Democracy in Education was published in 1916. What’s different, though, is the world in which we live.  Technology has completely changed the landscape in which we (adults) learn, work and play.  Is the same true for our students?

We hope you will join us in our inaugural Learn/Build, “Developing the Democratic Classroom” as we explore these and other questions.

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