Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The democratic classroom: Theory to inform practice, Chapter 3

Pearl, A., & Knight, T. (1999). The Democratic classroom: theory to inform practice. New Jersey: Hampton Press.

Chapter 3: Meeting the Goal of Student Participation in Decisions That Affect One’s Life: Developing the Skills for Responsible Political Empowerment

In this chapter, Pearl and Knight first begin a discussion about the current shortcomings of the public educational system. They argue that the purpose of public schools is to prepare students to lead a life of an active citizen. More specifically, schools must education students about how to vote wisely, however they caution that voting is perhaps the lease important aspect of a “competent citizen”. Pearl and Knight first outline a history of democratic citizenship, beginning with the thoughts of the Founding Fathers (Jefferson, Washington, and Adams). After a discussion of theory behind a democratic classroom, the authors provide ways in which classrooms can model the democratic values they see as good practices of citizenship. These ideas include: community building, student government, community service and cooperative learning. In reading this chapter, I can’t help but refer to an article that offers an opposing viewpoint to the idea that practicing democracy will make us better citizens. The piece is written by Mary Raywid and it is titled “The Democratic Classroom: Mistake or Misnomer. My experience with “The Democratic Classroom” is that it is written with theory as a primary defense for why public schools should become more democratic. I enjoyed this chapter because it provided practical ways for educators to incorporate these values into their classroom.

Noteworthy Quotations:

“A society can be no stronger than its least prepared citizen” (Pearl, 86).

“Only public schools have the potential of maintaining the diversity necessary for meaningful political discussion” (Pearl, 86).

“Democratic education organizes curriculum so that all students are able to devise a defensible solution to a generally recognized important problem, evaluate the logic and evidence used to support different proposals for the solution of the problem, and conceptualize the political tactics and strategy that would be required for implementation of the solution” (Pearl, 87).

Nowhere is disrespect for democracy more consistently taught by practice and policy than in school. In a great majority of classrooms, students learn that the teacher is boss and whatever she or he says goes, that there is no available mechanism to change a perceived unfair grade, that there is not process by which a student can adequately defend him or herself against a charge of misconduct, and that it is not possible to rectify perceived unfair treatment” (Pearl, 98).

Opposing Viewpoint:

Raywid, Mary. (1976). The Democratic classroom: mistake or misnomer. Theory into Practice , 15(1), 37-46.

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