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Are We a Democratic School?

12 Aug

Are We a Democratic School?

Posted By: 
Tamra Excell
At a recent conference, I sat in on a panel of students discussing their plans for the design of democratic school that would value personal agency. I enjoy hearing what kids have to say, and if you read recent emails from me, you know how I feel about personal agency. I was looking forward to this session! As they described the plans for the school, however, I began to question both the definition of personal agency and of democracy. Their design deviated very little from the conformity expected in typical public schools and included punitive instead of logical consequences. The design facilitated the use of popular opinion in a way that would override the other, equally valid, yet underrepresented voices. Instead of personal agency, what they spoke of was a type of self-efficacy: being able to effectively conform. The design did include ways for students to have representation and to vote, mirroring the system of the United States. This is one form of democracy for sure. As in the U.S., however, not all voices would be equally represented; should this just be considered preparation for the “real world”, or can we do better? CMASAS has often been told that it should be added to AERO’s list of democratic schools, and this will likely happen in the near future. However, in our efforts to facilitate the personal agency of each individual student, are we a democracy? An anarchy? Something else entirely? And as I struggle with this momentary identity crisis (said with a grin), I also wonder how we can do more to make sure that every student has a voice in CMASAS. Each student has a personal coach to serve as a mentor and advocate, and a team that includes instructors, a counselor, and yours truly. However, as we grow clubs and student government, how do we make sure that each student can participate in all thatCMASAS has to offer? Pondering the possibilities, Tamra