Friday, May 27, 2011

Educating a Democracy

Meier, D. (2000). Educating a Democracy. In J. Cohen & J. Rogers (Ed.), Will Standards Save Public Education (pp. 3-31). Boston, MA: Beacon.

Meier discusses the challenges we face as a democracy when we are tyring to educate our students through the guise of a standards based instruction. With the current role of high-stakes testing in our public school system, Meier argues that this approach is not the best approach to educating thoughtful citizens to participate in public discourse and our democratic government. Meier pulls from her experiences working in the schools of Boston and New York to comment on the importance of trusting teachers and reforming the way we as a society, view education. The article is broken up into various sections that cover the history of standards in education, the “crisis” we face, alternative models of assessment, and closes with the importance of educating a democracy.

I had read the Will Standards Save Public Education back when I was in college before I had entered the classroom and was struck by the ways that the public viewed my soon to be profession. I thought, and hoped, that this perception of education would have changed by the time I entered into the profession. Re-reading the article provided me with the reassurance that educating our students is about compassion, respect, responsibility, and care. While one cannot measure the success of these with a standardized test, they are the cornerstone of what it means to be an educator.
  • “By shifting the locus of authority to outside bodies, it undermines the capacity of schools to instruct by example in the qualities of mind that schools in a democracy should be fostering in kids--responsibility for one’s own ideas, tolerance for the ideas of others, and a capacity to negotiate differences.” p. 5
  • “Virtually all discussions, right or left, about what’s wrong in our otherwise successful society acknowledge the absence of any sense of responsibility for one’s community and of decency in personal relationships.” p.13
  • “The largest districts and the largest and most anonymous schools are again those that serve our least-advantaged children.” p. 14
  • “In a world shaped by powerful centralized media, restoring a greater balance of power between local communities and central authorities, between institutions subject to democratic control and those beyond their control, may be vastly more important than educational reformers bent on increased centralization acknowledge.” p. 19
  • “All we need is a little more patient confidence in the good sense of “the people”-- in short, a little more commitment to democracy.” p. 31

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