Democratic education is intentionally designed learning where young people experience democracy in action, attitudes and knowledge. With democracy as a learning tool, children and youth experience shared processes, sharing their voices, staying engaged and learning through action. By focusing on justice, equality and meaningful experiences, democratic education can be a powerful tool for youth engagement.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”― Howard Thurman
How to Foster Youth Engagement in Democratic Education
Self-Driven Learning — When young people discover ways to learn, motivation to learn and the purpose of learning, they can learn what they want in powerful ways. Whether using life experience, studies or personal exploration, self-driven learning can change the world by fostering independence and personal engagement.
Young People as Whole People — According to Alfie Kohn, “Children, after all, are not just adults-in-the-making. They are people whose current needs and rights and experiences must be taken seriously.” Too often education treats students as humans becoming instead of human beings. The notion that young people are whole people is inherently democratic and could force the radical re-envisioning of education as a place of growth and support.
Meaningful Student Involvement — Engaging young people and educators in student/adult partnerships to discourage adultism can happen when students are planners, researchers, teachers, evaluators, decision-makers and advocates. This is the most systematic and engaging avenue for student voice in democratic education.
Needs for Youth Engagement in Democratic Education
Training — Young people and adults can grow their learning together through educational opportunities to learn about democracy, education and the integration of each. The process of democratic education is never finished, and building the skills and knowledge of people learning together is a powerful way to foster succeeding generations of innovation and opportunity.
Opportunities — Practical and pragmatic opportunities for all students in every school to experience democratic education are the key to securing new generations of passionately engaged citizens. Developing and sustaining opportunities to co-create democracy in schools is vital to democratic education.
Reflection — Learning about democracy and learning from democracy are two different experiences that rely on each other; its not enough to do one and not the other. As John Dewey wrote, “Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.” Reflection allows, encourages and facilitates learning and action, which is at the heart of youth changing the world!
You Might Like…
- Youth Engagement in Popular Education
- Youth and Student Rights Schools
- Youth Engagement in Experiential Learning
- Institute for Democratic Education in America official website. Freechild Institute strongly encourages you to use this website and support this organization!
- “Essentials of Democratic Education” webpage by ASCD
- “A Call for Democratic Education” by Stephanie Schroeder for Teaching Tolerance in 2017.
- “What a Democratic Education Looks Like” by Kathleen Cushman from Horace by the Coalition for Essential Schools in 1995.
- “Adultism in Democratic Education” by Adam Fletcher