Street Conference at Museum of Natural History
place and potential in a democracy is an assumption that needs
frequent revisiting, agreed speakers Deborah Meier, Dr. Carl Glickman
and conference moderator Richard Rothstein, during an exchange
of ideas at a recent Bank Street College conference held at the
American Museum of Natural History. Public education still has
a long way to dissolve entrenched inequity, said Meier, a learning
theorist and founder/principal of Central Park East Secondary
School whose books include The Power of their Ideas and
Will Standards Save Public Education?
concept of elitism cannot be democratized,” she said. “The culture
of the ruling class is a closed system, complete with its own
language, and other mechanisms to keep others from joining.” School
should be where students get the tools to question the system
they live in, she added.
kind of power and education do I need so I can get my education
without thinking that they rule me?” she urged educators in the
audience to help their young charges consider. “Empowering students
to think this way starts by honoring their different backgrounds
and experience in the context of the classroom,” Meier stated.
But conference moderator and New York Times educational
columnist Richard Rothstein wondered if the pedagogy of empowerment
makes for a stronger democracy than a teaching approach which
might “for example, force students to memorize the Federalist
preach to the choir so we don’t feel as if we need any evidence
to prove us right or wrong,” he said, urging for more long term
studies of different educational methodology. Progressive educators
labor under the default assumption that if you give students an
education which encourages their input, they will automatically
agree it’s the best way to learn, said Dr. Carl Glickman, the
Endowed Chair in School Improvement at Southwest Texas State University,
who has authored a dozen books on such topics as school leadership
and the moral imperative of education.
this kind of education helps them make up their own minds,” he
said. “The DNA of a democracy is where citizens use education
to help each other.”
All students must first feel respected before learning to make
their own decisions and then ultimately taking the next step to
help others, concurred conference participant Briana Nurse – a
fourth-grade teacher at 15th Avenue School in Newark.
But foremost in her mind are the everyday, nitty gritty details
of teaching in a school where 100 percent of the students fall
below the federal poverty guidelines, she said, before heading
to a workshop to develop strategies for teaching about the community
– one of many afternoon sessions offered around the theme “Social
Studies: Where We Are in 2002.”
students are trying to make it through the present,” she said.
“For the first time last week during a lesson about neighborhoods,
one of them broke down and cried to me because he was scared just
walking to school. Those are the stories we hear.”#
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