This I Believe: My Educational Philosophy
I believe that all students in America should receive a democratic education, where students are immersed in an atmosphere that encourages learning through an open flow of ideas while integrating core values of democracy in order to mold students into functional members of society. My philosophy takes a progressivist approach on education. My idea of a democratic education should be student-centered with relatable and valuable content in order to keep the interest of students.
I believe that a democratic education should give students knowledge and strengthen their faith in democratic participation while emphasizing open-mindedness through a curriculum that parallels daily societal affairs.
A Progressivist Approach
“Learning to solve problems of [a] democratic society” through “active engagement” while “learning by doing, rather than listening” is a crucial theme in a progressivist approach. I believe in active learning and in molding my students to become functioning and effective members of society through a curriculum that is based around problems that are relatable to the students. The main role of the students is to be active learners and participate in their learning through discourse with their classmates while the teacher’s role is to create the optimal classroom environment for discussion and learning. Group work and exploration is highly encouraged in this democratic classroom (Oakes and Lipton, 2006, p. 107). Alongside the students, the teacher should be actively involved in discussion and propose different questions and problems to discuss. In this classroom, control split equally between the teacher and the students, which creates an optimal environment for learning.
As a mathematics teacher candidate, I have observed that in the eyes of students, mathematics is not always seen as useful. Mathematics curriculum based around real-world, relatable problems tends to trigger a greater curiosity within students which causes them to be more engaged in their learning. When students are more engaged in their learning, they will acquire more knowledge and strengthen their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. With this curriculum, I intend to create successful and effective members of society.
A Democratic Education
A democratic education is meant to “prepare students for participation in a democratic society” (Tozer, Senese, & Violas, 2009, p. 6 & 8). In order for students to become effective contributors to democratic society, students must be willing to listen to and also encourage “the open flow of ideas, regardless of their popularity, that enable people to be as fully informed as possible” (Apple & Beane, p. 7, 2007). A goal of democratic education is for students to be cognizant of the fact that all people are capable of conjuring up thoughts and ideas which should be encouraged and taken seriously. The open flow of ideas allows for diverse quality and quantity of inputs which can progress problem solving. Democracies thrive on diversity, one of the American Creed Values (Ball, 2018). It is important to note to students that diversity is not just a physical characteristic, but an intellectual one that includes creativity. With diversity comes inclusion, and with inclusion comes unified problem solving and participation in society. I believe that it is important for students to receive this democratic education in order to instill in them the value of diversity and being receptive of others’ ideas. To me, with knowledge comes power. This knowledge absorbed and discovered through education gives students the ability to create the life that they want.
I also believe that an education can encourage societal and political participation of students, both while in school and in their future. Participation in society is another American Creed Value (Ball, 2018). It is important that students know and understand their role as citizens. Students need to recognize that they can serve their country and participate in the government in many ways including: joining the military, holding a position on student council, voting, protesting, and more. Students need to understand that their actions can have an impact on the United States. Therefore, it is important that in a democratic school, faculty and staff encourage democratic participation among its students. This means that schools should get student input on important school-related issues, paralleling how the United States government operates. Students need to be able to actively participate in school decisions in order to ensure a democratic education. Once students see that they can have a difference in society by first making a difference in their school, they will instill in themselves a democratic faith.
Democratic faith is “the fundamental belief that democracy has a powerful meaning, that it can work, and that it is necessary if we are to maintain human dignity, equity, freedom, and justice in our social affairs” (Apple & Beane, p. 7, 2007). I believe that this is one of the most important aspects that a democratic education can create for a student. Having democratic faith is more than just a characteristic of democratic schooling, it is a way of life. If students have democratic faith, then they will be more willing to be active community members. Not all students come from families who have democratic faith; therefore, it is a goal of a democratic education to instill this in students. By being citizens of a democracy, we have freedoms greater than any other country. Being an active, effective citizen contributes to one having more democratic faith, which encourages citizens to be even more active in society, exercising those freedoms. Thus, effective citizenship and democratic faith are interdependent. Hence, it is important that democratic schools create and encourage this cycle.
Democratic schooling is a key factor in creating effective and functioning members of society. It is the duty of democratic schools to teach and encourage a diverse atmosphere and open flow of ideas in order to simulate participation in a democratic society. If successful, schools will be able to transform students into citizens who will have an impact on the democracy they live in. The main goal of democratic schooling is to get students to appreciate and contribute to the democracy of the United States. This is why I believe that all students should have a democratic education.
The Impact of a Democratic Education
A democratic education does more than just create functioning members of society; it teaches students that they are worth more than their how they were raised. I want students to understand and believe that they are more powerful than they think. The future of America, which also includes their future, is in their own hands. It is their responsibility to do everything they can to make it what they want it to be. In American Creed, Rice states many times that “It doesn’t matter where you come from; it matters where you are going” (Ball, 2018). A democratic education gives students the opportunity to create their own path to success by giving them what they need to thrive in society- democratic faith, knowledge, and open-mindedness.
A great example of a democratic education at work happened at my junior methods placement. At a school board meeting at St. Ursula Academy, teachers, staff, and student council were discussing the nearing student walk-out which came about because of a school shooting. This protest, started by students, was a way for students to become more involved in politics, but not all students wanted to participate in a “walk-out” manner. Due to an open flow of ideas, St. Ursula came up with other ways that students and staff could participate in the protest. One of the theology teachers came up with the idea of a prayer service, while an art student who was on student council thought of a mural painting that could also occur during the walk-out. This open flow of ideas allowed for the school to offer its students many different opportunities and ways of protesting. Not all students were comfortable with the walk out, but the other ideas allowed for a greater student participation. This shows how an open flow of ideas from both adults and students helped create a successful walk-out.
This example integrates diversity, an open flow of ideas, knowledge, and participation. The students actively participated in the politics of their school, and through an open flow of ideas, created a solution that allowed all students to be active citizens. This walk-out had a local impact as well as a national one. A true democratic education encourages events like these, which help students in building their democratic faith. This example embodies what all democratic educational institutions should strive for- creating opportunity-seeking, functional members of society.
We shape Americans through education; and therefore, it is crucial to instill in students the knowledge from a democratic education that encompasses the open flow of ideas while replicating life in a democratic society. We must do this to fortify America’s youth and their participation in society; and this, I believe.
Ball, S. (Director). (2018, February). American Creed [Video file]. Retrieved September 3, 2018, from https://www.americancreed.org/watch
Beane, J., & Apple, M. (2007). The case for democratic schools. In Michael Apple and James Beane (eds.), Democratic education: Lesson in powerful education, 2nd ed. (pp. 1-12). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Oakes, J., & Lipton, M. (2006). Teaching to change the world. 3rd ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.
Tozer, S., Senese, G., & Violas, P. (2009). School and Society; historical and contemporary perspectives (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
Photo by Fibonacci BlueTags: University of Toledo