One of the only positive side effects of the manufactured crisis facing Philadelphia public schools is that it provides an excellent opportunity for students to think deeply about Democracy and Education. In my 12th grade American Government class we started off the year by challenging narrow ideas and simplistic definitions of democracy. Students had an opportunity to figure out how they would like to develop a definition based on different ways of thinking about the concept. We discussed these student definitions and, as a class, agreed upon a list of democratic values (things like freedom, equality, opportunity, having a voice…)
Students then had a chance to develop their own thinking about the connections between democracy and education. After sharing their initial thoughts we read and discussed a quote from John Dewey. Students also read and pulled quotes of interest from the Harpers Magazine article “School on a Hill.”
After developing background thinking on the issue, we were fortunate to have a visit from the amazing Helen Gym. Helen spoke about her views of education “reform” in general and gave the students specific information about recent history in the School District of Philadelphia.
This week students will be broadening their perspectives on the issues by researching on their own and with a collection of resources that I created for them. Later in the week they will learn about the format of digital stories, develop essential questions for their projects, write scripts, and then get my approval to proceed with their projects. The final project is a digital story that says something unique about Democracy and Education at this moment in Philadelphia. The full project description can be found here. (I am still tweaking some final details).
Stay tuned to see the projects! In addition to having students publicize their own work I plan to post examples here and on Twitter.