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Lesson Plans

Re: Democracy, art, schools and gangs

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Virginia Rockwood (wckdstpm)
Mon, 02 Jun 1997 21:44:51 +2609

Your dictionary definition, Bob, of democracy is so limiting. When I
speak of democracy in education the issue of power comes immediately to
mind. The concepts of empowerment and what Seth Kreisberg characterizes
as "power with" are essential if we as educators are to help aid in
creating a more just and democratic society. A democracy requires
empowered citizens for its survival, however it can only be created and
maintained by those possessing the skills and values necessary to fully
participate in the lives of their communities.
Our schools and even our classrooms can be considered communities, and
how we manage them, how we teach, how we make decisions which affect our
students, how we relate to our students can serve as the means for
learning the skills of, values, and practicing democratic process.
As a teacher it takes an attitude shift, a look at our language. I no
longer speak of controlling my students, I wish only to control the
environment. I consider myself more of a facilitator, as opposed to one
who pours knowledge into the empty heads of her students. My students
develop a list of classroom expectations of behavior at the beginning of
the year for them and for me. Students who screw up determine their
appropriate consequences. My students participate in their assessments.
Within the structure of my curriculum I give students as many choices as
possible. They are encouraged to exercise all their rights as citizens
provided they accept the accompanying responsibilities. It is understood
that my classroom can not be an authentic democracy (the hierarchy of
power over me is ever present), however my students know they are
expected to participate in their art education, and that I refuse to let
them sit back and do it to them. A democratic classroom takes practice
and hard work, but it can and does work.
Last winter I was late to school one morning due to weather conditions.
When I finally walked into my first class, I discovered they started
without me. The slide projector was on and one student had been chosen
to lead the discussion on "American Gothic", the current topic. Not bad
for eighth graders.

I continue to feel that democracy in my art room can only enhance
teaching and learning.