Understanding democracy, learning to be democratic and to value democracy are critical competencies to be developed by all Americans. In the present debate about what knowledge is of most worth in the public school, these civic competencies are seen as second in importance only to the development of critical thinking. They are typically, however, honored more in commencement rhetoric than in school programs or practices; their actualization falls far short of their ascribed importance. The authors argue that critical opportunities for democratic development occur in the day-to-day life of the schools. It follows that all grade levels should participate in the creation of the constitution of the school and classrooms, the justice structure of the school (its disciplinary code, norms, and adjudication), the policy-making of the school, and in the understanding of the school as a social laboratory. The authors demonstrate the effectiveness of such a program by reporting some two decades of applied research on democratic schools which have realized some of these outcomes.
About the Author:
RALPH MOSHER is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Developmental Studies of Boston University. His many professional interests over the years have included teacher development supervision of beginning and advanced teachers and helping professionals cirriculum development, particularly to promote personal, socio-moral, and civic development in adolescents and reform of school governance, policymaking, and justice structures to enhance the adolescent's understanding of democracy. He is the co-author of Democracy with Children (1981), editor of Moral Education (1980) and Adolescents' Development and Education (1979) and author of How to Teach Your Child Right From Wrong (1981), Value Development (1978), and numerous other books and articles.
ROBERT A. KENNY, JR., is a founding partner of the firm Kenny Howard Associates in Concord, Massachusetts. He specializes in citizenship education, values education, and community participation as strategies to promote development and positive values in youth. He was Associate in Education at the Center for Moral Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he started designing and researching democratic forums for children. A co-founder of the New England Conference for Democratic Schools, he has also served as an advisor at the local, state, and federal levels to develop policy for preventing adolescent self-destructive behavior.
ANDREW GARROD is Associate Professor of Education at Dartmouth College. His research interests are moral development, moral education, and adolescence, and he has published widely in these areas. He is the editor of Approaches to Moral Development: New Research and Emerging Themes (1993), Adolescent Portraits: Identity, Relationships and Challenges (1992), and Learning for Life: Moral Education Theory and Practice (Praeger, 1992).