I believe that a focus on problem solving, collaboration, democratic values, and the American Creeds are the keys to effective education. Problem solving is more than just STEM; it is working together to solve problems within our democratic society. Collaboration is at the core of a functional society; without each other, we get nowhere. Democracy is more than a process; it is a code of values and principles that guide us to be more invested in others and accepting of ideas. The American Creeds of education and citizenship guide our society; they remind us of our privilege and bring us together as a unit. I believe that all of these factors are essential working parts of America’s society; where progressive education and democracy come together as one to create a better tomorrow.
My philosophy of education is progressive when it comes to what and how students should be taught. I believe that teachers “must bring to the forum more than their enthusiasm for students and their knowledge of subjects,” and that the purpose of schooling should be to learn to solve problems of and within a democratic society (Oakes & Lipton, 2003, p. 106). Curriculum should surround the problems of American society, and more specifically, problems that interest children. If we focus on the problems that interest children in schools, then students will be more engaged, and in turn develop more problem solving skills that can aid them in becoming productive members of democratic society as they continue in life.
The role of the teacher should be to create an environment that encourages students to direct their own learning and problem solve in a group, while the role of the students is to actively engage in these activities and learn by doing. Everyone has a right to an education that suits them, no matter what. John Dewey, a famous progressive, believed that immigrant children should be taught about their home cultures in school to foster pride in those cultures (Oakes & Lipton, 2003). This is something that the education system strives to do today, but often falls short of. I believe students should be invited to celebrate their cultures in the classroom; like through a personal “Where I Come From” poem, or simply taking time in class to acknowledge a holiday that a student celebrates. Embracing student lives and societal problems encompasses the ideals of progressivism, and should be the basis for American education.
Collaboration is the core of human interaction; it is how we have progressed as a society, and how we will continue to progress. Collaborative planning can aid students in becoming effective contributors to democratic society. Collaborative planning between students and teachers will help students to effectively contribute to democratic society naturally, as they will want to continue their education because they feel they have a stake in it (Apple & Beane, 2007). It is an engaging and encouraging way to keep students in school and learning, as they will want to continue their education because they feel they have some control over it. This will help students become effective contributors to democratic society because they will have a more positive outlook on the American schooling system and will understand that their input matters and can be put into action. Citizens will have a more positive outlook on the American schooling system because chances are, they will be more satisfied with their schooling as they collaborated to shape it. This is important because many U.S. citizens have a negative opinion of America and how things are run. But, if citizens collaborate and their input is put into action, they will have a sense of responsibility and pride over what happens. Collaborative planning is essential to begin to grow students into collaborative citizens.
Students are often only taught that democracy is a system of government, when really, it is a system of life. Teaching students that democracy is not only a process, but something that involves values and principles, is key to helping citizens become effective contributors to democratic society. These values include, but are not limited to, the concern for the welfare of others, and allowing ideas to flow freely (Apple & Beane, 2007). It is important to remind students that these American democratic values are a privilege of being an American citizen, and are at the core of what it means to be an American. Concern for the welfare of others is something that must be taught by modeling it and encouraging others to model it as well. By modeling it and valuing it as a teacher, students will follow and become more conscious of the welfare of others in the world, and especially fellow Americans. Allowing ideas to flow freely in the classroom without judgement is key to help students think through their ideas, and learn to cooperate and collaborate with those who may have differing ideas from them. This is another thing that must be taught by modeling the behavior and expecting the same from students. Teaching students that these values and principles are key to a democratic society will help them not only to see what it means to be a part of one, but also to see how integral it is to creating a safe, supportive environment for themselves and others.
Education is highly valued in America, but not always valued by students; for this reason, guiding students to value education and life-long learning is essential in a progressive, democratic society. The American Creed value of education, as Condoleeza Rice says in American Creed, is that “the access to education can change everything” (Bean & Ball, 2018). This value is important to me as a citizen because I am a first generation college student, and a big part of that achievement is having parents who financially struggled as a result of only a high school education, and their experience with having parents who financially struggled because of this as well. My parents always instilled in me that the way to financial security is through education, and education will come before everything else. This value is important to instill in students because they may not have this drive implanted in their lives by their parents to receive an education, therefore they may not even know that higher education is an option for them. To teach them of this importance, I would pull up data on the amount of financial aid available for students, and the difference in financial stability between those who have a high school degree, and a college degree. Along with this, I would use literature to show students how much one can grow as a person by reading about the human condition. I would share my experiences on how I blossomed in college through reading literature, as I learned about myself through reflecting on literature, and how my mom never had that chance to grow and reflect as she went straight into the workforce and started a family. This way, I am reaching students through logos and pathos by showing them the numbers, as well as sharing my own experience.
Citizenship is another value that is undervalued by students, and it is partly the teacher’s responsibility to stress the importance of and the privilege that citizenship in America is. The American Creed value of citizenship is expressed by David Kennedy in American Creed to be “full participation of every citizen” (Bean & Ball, 2018). This value is vital as a citizen because as citizens of a country where even our least privileged would be considered privileged in some other countries, we often forget how fortunate and privileged we are to be in that situation. I often take time to step back and express gratitude for the life I was born into, but rarely for the country I was born into, which affects my life more than I realize. Watching the documentary American Creed has allowed me to step back and do just that; acknowledge and appreciate my American privileges. I say “American privileges” and not “American rights” because the word “rights” often gives a sense of entitlement that results in ungratefulness. While yes, I think that our constitutional rights are rights that should be granted to every person, the matter of the fact is that in a vast amount of countries across the world, they are not. For this reason, it is vital for United States citizens to step back and appreciate these rights and participate in society as not only grateful Americans, but grateful people. This is important for students to learn because in today’s social and political climate these privileges that we have are taken for granted. Younger generations today have not had to sacrifice in the way that older generations like those of the Great Depression and those who fought or had family who fought in the Vietnam war did. Although this is something to be celebrated, it is also something to be aware of as a privilege. I would teach this value of citizenship to my students by having them read a memoir of someone from another country who fled to America. I would do this to show how my students who have citizenship, something that many take for granted, is something that people would die for. I would then have students do a reflection activity on their American citizen privilege, and how they will actively work to reflect on and appreciate this privilege throughout their lives.
I believe that these focuses on problem solving, collaboration, democratic values, and the American Creeds in education are key to guiding America to be a more successful and cohesive democratic society. These factors will guide students and citizens to be able to successfully work together towards common goals, and begin to solve the societal problems that ails us. Through this progressive lense I believe that more people will succeed in our education system and ultimately as citizens of our American democratic society.
Apple, M. W., & Beane, J. A. (2007). Democratic schools: Lessons in powerful education.
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Bean, R. (Executive Senior Producer), Soles, D. (Executive Producer), Stilley Steiner K.
(Producer), & Davidson, J. (Director). (2018). American Creed [Motion picture].
United States: WTTW & Citizen Film.
Oakes, J., & Lipton, M. (2003). Teaching to Change the World(2nd ed.). Milton: Taylor and
Photo by psdTags: University of Toledo