Monday, June 13, 2011

I believe in public education...

"I believe that the public education system is the avenue by which the principles of democracy are best exemplified."

Democracy. John Dewey knew that public education was a most effective vessel to promote a democratic society in his time, and it still is in our time. Schools are environments that provide the opportunity for kids to realize their fullest potential, and then to share that potential with others in the interest of the greater good. There is no greater democratic responsibility. Public schools are the institutions that enable all kids to exercise this responsibility.

There's a catch though.

Schools provide opportunities, but kids have to seize them. Just like democratic citizens have to seize the opportunity to exercise their democratic right to be heard, only the kids who choose to exercise their right to be taught will learn.  Universal, free public education is the possibility we have created in the western world allowing kids from all walks of life, all socioeconomic, cultural, religious and political backgrounds the right to be taught; the privilege to learn.

It's somewhat ironic to me that the very institution that first provided this democratic right to be taught is often as of late the very last choice parents are making for their kids, when around the world there are millions of kids who do not have the choice to attend any school, leave alone a universal, free public school open to all. They don't have the right to be taught, which is so sad.

Education needs a united front in support of the idea that every single child should be entitled to attend school without prejudice, and on the expectation that his needs will be served at the highest level. Public schools can offer this. In order for the system to optimize, teachers and the schools they teach within must have public support; both financial and ideological, and in the democratic spirit of the greater good. The result will be wonderfully diverse, democratic schools made up of students from many cultural perspectives, all exercising their equal right to be taught, and their democratic responsibility to engage meaningfully in the process.
"People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote -  a very different thing." - Walter H. Judd
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