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    Saturday, August 27, 2005

    Democratic Education

    I am intrigued by this article on "Democratic Schools".

    In some ways, I agree that kids should be able to pursue the things that interest them. I know that I never would have spent one day of my life studying math and, with the exceptions of basic arithmetic, would never have found myself lost without it in adult life. I wish I had had more time in my days to study poetry and dance and other things I found worthwhile as a child.

    BUT, without being forced to study it, I probably would have ignored history as well, and I feel that influences me profoundly on a daily basis.

    Academically, Kohn says progressive education should emphasize not only following children's interests, but also challenging them to consider topics and problems that may not have occurred to them.

    "Leaving kids on their own tends to flatten the slope of their improvement," concurs schools reformer Ted Sizer, whose latest book, The Red Pencil, offers a powerful critique of American education.


    There's also the discipline issue. Think about the people you know who were so spoiled as kids, never having to do anything they didn't want to do, that they now feel paralyzed by life. Part (a smaller part than the status quo, but part all the same) of what school teaches is doing things you don't want to do, discipline.

    "My aim is to never end up in a repetitious, boring, and mindless day job, and I seem to be doing pretty well so far," says a recent graduate of a democratic school. Which brings up my other qualm of mine. Some people in our society are going to have to work "repetitious, boring, and mindless" jobs, but this educational mindset sets up a whole class of adults who believe they are entitled to live their according to their whims, not realizing that others haven't such luxury.

    Finally, it is difficult, in my opinion, to determine whether these schools "produce" such successful adults, as these kids were put in these schools by parents, who not only supported certain ideals that led them to the school, but also could afford to send their kids to the school.

    All that said, I think I would be the sort of parent who would consider sending my child to such a school.

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