Aroundsquare's activities are diverse, but they have a single centre of gravity. They all have to do with helping to build a better world by supporting healthy learning and development. So we make toys that spark creativity and encourage active play. And we support educational initiatives all over the world, and especially those that are focused on empowering young people to help transform their communities, to make them more peaceful, more sustainable, and more just.
As part of this effort, Aroundsquare's Matthew Hiebert has recently been doing some work with the E-Collaborative for Civic Education, to support the development of school environments which are conducive to the development of democratic citizens. Check out their Tavaana project, where you'll find a series of three video lectures, along with some reference materials. These lectures discuss the "three C's of democratizing culture" - critical thinking, content related to democracy, and a context which is itself democratic:
- Critical thinking in democracy education
- Education about democracy, and the democratization of educational content
- Teaching democratic culture by democratizing education
Amongst these three, the last is the most progressive, discussing how we might go about reorienting the hidden curriculum of formal schooling to support rather than subvert the development of a democratic culture. The hidden curriculum is almost always discussed as a negative influence on students, and one which probably has a more powerful effect than anything that is taught explicitly. Aroundsquare is of the mind that the hidden curriculum does not have to be an accident. The things that comprise the hidden curriculum are things that we can control to a large extent, and by reorienting the factors involved, we can help make students' experiences more positive, and support the development of autonomy and self efficacy, integrity, reciprocity, civic respect, and all the good things that help us to lead satisfying and meaningful lives.