"The plan, in other words, is a co-operative enterprise, not a dictation. The teacher’s suggestion is not a mold for a cast-iron result but it is a starting point to be developed into a plan through contributions from the experience of all engaged in the learning process. The development occurs through reciprocal give and take, the teacher taking but not being afraid also to give. The essential point is that the purpose grow and take shape through the process of social intelligence.”
- John Dewey, Experience and Education, 1938
While systematic change needs to be considered in terms of the jobs that adults hold and perform--the whole point of democratic education is to understand ways that students can become more actively involved in framing their own education. While this shift often manifests in single efforts that strive to increase student “leadership” democratic education involves much more than students serving on councils and being “given” the chance to be heard.
For students to gain voice, it means restructuring the roles and relationships of teacher and student---it means rethinking the purpose of education. All the efforts of schools---teachers, administrators—and students—should converge on the self-actualization of each and every student. Sad to say, this is a radical idea.
Authentic student voice activates democracy in schools, changes everyone’s perception of decision-making and alters the expectations for what worthy work will be. Finding ways to connect classroom practice to students’ lived lives and organize around these connections is a powerful part of this process.
Students are the ones who will carry the change and bring the messages to the public. They will show the community—and their teachers and themselves—what they are capable of. When students bring the work into the community, they become the emissaries of a new vision of education.
Here are two great websites that profile work of authentic student voice....