The principle of school choice is not as simple as upholding the rights of autonomy of families to make decisions about the education of their children. There are important considerations related to social justice, social cohesion, and so on. Private schools which are permitted to charge tuition are often able to generate large operating budgets, which can enable them to create better educational opportunities for the students there. This effectively allows wealthy parents to give their children an advantage over children from poor families, which undermines the principles of social justice. Charter schools with voucher systems, which allow families to effectively transfer their child's portion of public education funding from one school to the next, attempt to circumvent this issue by providing full public funding without any allowance for additional tuition fees. However, even in these cases, although financial inputs may be equal, there is still a social justice issue, because only the most active and engaged families (often those with the most educated parents) will do the research and leg work to make the best choices for their child's educationRead More
With the support of the Council for a Community of Democracies, Aroundsquare's Matthew Hiebert recently had the opportunity to participate in a panel presentation on fostering democracy through education, hosted by the International Foundation for Democracy Education. The esteemed panelists included Lee Arbetman, Executive Director of Street Law, Augusta Featherston, Regional Program Officer with IFES, and Romina Kasman, Coordinator of the Inter-American Program on Education for Democratic Values and Practices at the Organization of American States.
A video recording of the webcast for the event, along with links to downloadable materials provided by the speakers, can be found on the IFES website.Read More
A variety of tensions inevitably result during any process of change. Many teachers feel these tensions when implementing transformative educational approaches, because they are very different from traditional ways of teaching. It's the same situation, whether we're talking about education for democracy, education for sustainable development, student centred approaches, or whatever the case may be. Teachers must strive to find the right balance between extremes, in order to mediate these tensions and be as effective as possible in the classroom.
Balance 1: Explicit and Tacit
Much of the discussion in this Guidebook has been about tacit learning, and the role of contextual factors in students’ experiences. However, most curricula, and mostRead More
It's easy to talk about why democracy education is important. It's easy to pull together content about democracy.. even stuff for kids. But it's a lot hard to conceptualize what the practice of democracy education should look like. Clearly it doesn't just involve sitting and listening to lectures about democracy. But then what? Building on some of the work I did last year on education for democracy, I have developed a new guidebook for educators on how to put some of the theory into practice, and how to support some of the content with authentic experiences doing democracy.
The guidebook is actually an application of something deeper that I'm working on.. Aroundsquare's social transformation model. I'm exploring how we might, if we really want it, undertake to make some meaningful changes in our societies, in ourRead More
Classroom management, including discipline and behavior management, can be seen to represent the role of adult authority over children, and repression, in general. The analogy to the relationship between citizens and their government is obvious, and therefore, it is important that teachers pay careful attention to how they areRead More
While the importance of education in a democratic society is quite obviously, the specifics of an education that contributes to the development of a healthy democracy are subtler. We immediately recognize that citizens need a sound and meaningful education to be able to participate effectively in democratic life. But, when we think about what learning is required, we soon realize that this can’t be entirely described by knowledge and skills—the way we usually think about educational outcomes. What’s more, much of the learning required for active democratic citizenship does not really fit within the framework of existing subject disciplines. How, within our current curricula, are we expected to cultivate civic virtues such as autonomy, justice, and mutual respect? Where, within the context math, or science, or even social studies, do we meaningfully contribute to students’ engagement with civic life?Read More
A fair bit has been written about political aspects of mainstream schooling in the west. Most of this is critical, exploring aspects of the hidden curriculum which undermine democratic participation and social justice by teaching students to be complacent, by priviledging certain knowledge over others etc. This is an important body of work, and I agree with most of it. But I've been frustrated by the overwhelming focus on critical over constructive perspectives. We need both. We need to acknowledge the shortcomings, but to envision a better way of doing things, we also need to step back and look at why things are the way they are. In theory, our educational policy and legal context have been established to underpin a certain approach to education which was deamed appropriate to the kind of country we wanted. I think it's time to revisit some of these underlying principles, especially in light of issuesRead More
I'm becoming increasingly aware of the problem with how we understand curriculum. There was probably a time when curriculum related more clearly to the sum of experiences in schooling, but that time has passed. Back when I was doing my pre-service teacher education, I learned that curriculum referred to a set of documents.. the outline of what we were supposed to teach. I heard whispers every now and then about this thing called a hidden curriculum as well, but as exciting as that idea was at the time, I've come to think that both concepts are equally problematic--though for different reasons. These days the best we seem to be able to come up with is the idea of standards.
The problem with curricula, or standards, or syllabuses, is that they almost always reduce education to a set of things that students are supposed to learn. This then gets flippedRead More
think about the world around you. think about the world around our children. now, remove the stuff that's directed at them, remove the explicit stuff. remove the parents' lectures, remove the teacher talk, remove the moral of the story, remove the product that the commercial is telling them to buy.
what you're left with is everything else. it's a lot. it's actually pretty much everything. in the big picture, what's written on the billboard doesn't matter nearly as much as the fact that they are surrounded by billboards. what the teacher says doesn't matter nearly as much as the fact that the kid needs to sit in their desk for eight hours a day listening to it. what's playing on the television doesn't matter nearly as much as the fact that it's the centrepiece of the living room and the focal point of family life.
we focus so much on the messages, while we ignore the medium. by being selectiveRead More
i’ve written before about the idea of tacit teaching, and the important role which context (as opposed to explicit content) plays in the development of children. the idea is that we should be as intentional about context as we are about content, because what we immerse our children in matters, perhaps more than what we tell them during their immersion.
but in order to do something constructive with this idea, it is necessary to operationalize it. the idea of context can be broken down in a number of ways. in the context of schooling, it is we can conveniently talk about them in terms of three aspects: the physical, material environment and objects in it; the social context and interpersonal features; and the institutional landscape including formal and informal policies, which shape the course of experiences in that context. while these areas are not mutually exclusive, they provide aRead More