Democracy in the Garden? Quick thoughts..

It is tricky for educators and parents (adults) to find effective ways  to facilitate compassionate, democratic school classroom communities.
Facilitate means guide.
Not dictate.
Not exert “power over” but instead practice “power with”.

And what’s the point?

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Why do we want young people to have experience with this? So they can mourn the fact that in the “real world” no one cares about these things?
Or so that they can influence the way things develop for the future of the real world?

Do we construct and influence the world or are we helpless in the face of injustice?

If young people are  to learn how to participate in and run things democratically and compassionately  in their classrooms, they do best when able to observe the adults in the wider  school community, and beyond,  actively participating as part of the same  overall social construct.   A top down construct for school business completely alien from what happens in the classrooms and the world of kids, is contradictory and confusing.

Young people  cannot and do not spontaneously bust out with knowledge about how to make sure things are fair, or how to run a meeting etc. Fairness is important to them..but they need support to get started…  laying  groundwork for understanding, critical thinking,  empathy and compassion to develop, grow and transform.   It is hard for adults to get used to not having dominion over young people, or leaders to get used to collaboration.  It is hard for adults to leave the “old school” top down (cruel) model in the dust, where it belongs. ..where it belongs…yes where it belongs.Just do it. Be courageous and brave and make lots of mistakes..but do it.

Photo courtesy cthebean/schoolyard foodimage


About cthebean

Educator, musician, social justice activist...and now a blogger. Children deserve unflinching support from adults.....they deserve nothing less. All kids . Everybody's kids. Everywhere.
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11 Responses to Democracy in the Garden? Quick thoughts..

  1. cthebean says:

    Reblogged this on and commented:

    in case you missed this…


  2. cafejoseito says:

    You talk about some arbitrary majority rule (democracy), with the background of children, who are coerced in one way or another to attend school, and you expect to have any credibility to talk about justice?


    • cthebean says: is a law. School is mandatory at age 6 in the US.
      Are you putting forward that it is impossible for children to learn how to put democratic principles in motion and learn self-governance if they are oppressed? I don’t agree that we cannot talk about or seek justice even when we may be gasping under the weight of oppression. History is full of examples where people stood up and resisted oppression successfully.
      Majority rule is an aspect of the practice of democracy that some do not agree is just, and many do not use it in decision making.Is this the only and singular concept that you know about as far as democratic principles go, or what exactly are you trying to say here about that?


  3. carolahand says:

    This is such an important topic, Christine. Modeling facilitative, respectful leadership is an essential foundation for education of students at any age.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. cthebean says:

    Thanks Jeff, for your thoughtfulness.

    Well…not to be Pollyanna, but you and I are talking about this right now, and there is an education revolution movement international in scope that is addressing these ideas, and many others. I’ll be going to conference in NY in June and am excited to be with a group of folks who think way out of the box …and who are running schools that are struggling with how to learn in ways that enrich all of us…and possibly, just maybe, teach us how to resist our oppression and walk arm in arm toward a more positive outcome for our shared future.

    I can’t live without hope for that possibility…working toward that glimmer……even though we are up against a terrible terrible wall of darkness.


  5. Jeff Nguyen says:

    You’ve made some good points here. What we say students should do when it comes to decision making, collaborative learning and cooperation is distinctly at odds with what we (the adults) often put into practice. Administrators, for better or worse, set the tone for the school climate but it takes all school staff to work together to give up some control and be willing to truly listen and value all of the voices inside the school walls.

    The incessant testing and related system of rewards/punishments for both teachers and students make the lofty goals you’ve put forth difficult to obtain but no less worth the effort. Good insights, these are the discussions that need to be (but sadly aren’t) taking place.


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