Democratic Education Workshops

At the International Democratic Education Conference in Vancouver last week I had the privilege of facilitating three open space workshops. The three were all exhilarating conversations, filled with questions and criticisms, hope and idealism, and contradictions. The people I met and the dialogues we engaged in will stay with me for a long time.

Following are the descriptions I wrote of those sessions, and links to the conference website. I believe they are mostly true-to-form for each of the workshops. I would love to continue having these dialogues, or to start new versions in different spaces. The internet could be a powerful tool to deliberate on any of this.

Ripple Effects: From Democratic Schools to Democratic Societies

How can democratic schools culture ripple into the larger world?

How can the culture and learning students experience in democratic schools ripple into the larger world? Participants in this workshop will explore powerful new roles for students in communities around the world where they are creating, facilitating and examining democracy in local groups, community organizations, governments, the Internet, and global decision-making avenues.

This workshop will push the boundaries of where democratic schools stop and democratic societies begin. Beginning from the belief that radical democracy is practical, purposeful and necessary in today’s society, participants will explore connections between democratic schooling and the so-called “real world.” Experience and critical examination will be the goal, with community youth councils, youth-led media, participatory youth action research, and the many, many different ways young people are engaging in democracy at the center of the discussion.

Public democratic schools: Baby steps to a revolution

Finding entry points for infusing the principles of democratic education into publicly-financed mainstream schooling.

Participants in this workshop will plumb their own experiences in public schools in order to find entry points, inspiration and ideas for infusing the principles of democratic education into publicly-financed mainstream schooling.

This workshop is for participants who have had experience in public schools who want to change public schools. Rather than focusing on the mistakes of public schools in the last eight years, this workshop will take a wide view by examining where public education has come from over the last 100 years, from John Dewey to present. Participants will share their experiences in public schools and use them to reflect, critique, and propose radical new departures in which students experience learning through democracy.

Democratic mechanisms vs. Democratic culture

Educators create schools with democratic systems that fit their visions for democratic education. But is democratic learning more than that?

Well-meaning educators create schools, and within those walls have student councils, classroom voting and self-evaluations that fit their visions for democratic education. But is democratic learning more than that?

Participants in this workshop will explore the difference between the machinations of democratic schooling and the culture of democratic learning. With an emphasis on critical examination, participants will talk about the purposes and differences between having democratic activities, or mechanisms, and creating and sustaining democratic cultures. Where do the two approaches work together, or does the nature of structured schooling disallow them from co-existing? Where and when does democratic culture in schools fall apart?

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