participatory democracy in schools

OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL CHILDREN. THAT'S WHAT DEMO...public domain image via Wikipedia* Author: Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. Domestic Operations Branch. Bureau of Special Services. (03/09/1943 - 09/15/1945)

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s new site hosts Ron Millers' eloquent essay below (h/t to Lefty Parent for pointing it out to me). I have posted work from Ron Miller before, see  educational rights.  The US has struggled with democracy and civil rights but a focus on democracy and choice for children and families is a natural outgrowth of that struggle, a topic discussed in Ron Miller's talk on educational rights, at the link.  

In the US, compulsory attendance was instituted at a time when the world surrounding schools was entirely different for families, children and communities.  The schools themselves were far more limited in time of attendance and the power schooling had over the economic lives of many people. As schooling was extended and industrialization grew,  schooling was linked to jobs for more and more people and compulsory attendance ensured jobs for a growing bureaucracy within the public schools. As long as economic growth was strong and widely shared, the structural issue of lack of input and control by families was not experienced as being negative (with the significant exception of racial apartheid in the South). 

However, the past 30 years of neoliberal, corporate domination of the economy have stressed many working families to the breaking point and access to the public schools remains problematic for many African-Americans who now face a school-to-prison pipeline, deep inequities of funding, and ongoing racism. All families need and want educational resources for their children so that their children can have good lives. Ensuring that families have rights within the public schools will help transition the system from a top-down relic of central planning to a true provider of learning services that families can access and use as they need. 

"Participatory democracy is not a utopian ideal at odds with human nature, but an expression of attainable values that a society could choose to pursue. It seems that rapid industrialization and then the sudden emergence of technologies for mass communications threw the American democratic experiment off balance for a century or more. Enormous wealth and power became tantalizingly available, and fueled “dominator” cultural patterns at the expense of the partnership vision that inspired early American democracy. But since the rebellions of the 1960s, it appears that we have begun to recognize what we have lost, and millions of citizens are working to reclaim that vision."
Lefty Parent also blogged on this topic and his essay is worth reading:
Thoughts on Participatory Democracy | Lefty Parent"We progressive people should be raising our kids to question authority (starting with our own) and participate as fully as possible in our family decision-making processes. That rather than treating our young people as semi-functional beings whose lives must be thoroughly stage-managed by their parents and the educational institutions of the state (in loco parentis). We should send our kids to school urging them to stand up for their rights as human beings to a voice and a vote in the institutions that govern them. We should lobby their teachers and principals to implement elements of democratic process in school, towards giving our kids “full citizenship” in their own school."



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