Mainstream American education is increasingly driven by standardized tests instead of real-life learning and curiosity. Too often we hear about—or worse, witness—students stressing out, checking out, or dropping out every day.
The Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA) is at the eye of a new sustainable education movement to give students the education they deserve, and citizens the planet they need.
Democratic education starts from the premise that every young person is unique, and that all young people deserve the opportunity to live and learn in an environment that practices meaningful participation, supports self-initiative in learning, and is directed towards greater equality and social justice.
And, yes, it includes teaching the basics—literacy and numeracy—along with offering a clear connection between what students learn and how it will help them become savvy, fulfilled, and responsible members of their communities and the larger world.
So, how do I get started?
Democratic Education 101
Begin by reading What is Democratic Education? and watch the short video, Make Your Voice Heard. If you are itching for more in-depth information, read Dana Bennis' feature here.
IDEA’s Eduvation Library is brimming with articles and other resources on topics that include: place-based education, involving students in governance, and self-directed learning. It also has a healthy selection of its own lesson plans and classroom activities, plus resources from other well-known organizations that embrace democratic education, such as Facing the Future and Teaching Tolerance.
Explore the Eduvation Library for practical, relevant, and innovative tools.
Survey: How democratic is my school?
Is your school demanding? Respectful? Tense? Are students encouraged to ask questions? Take the IDEA survey for a snapshot evaluation of what's happening at your school. Consider sharing it with students, parents, and your teaching colleagues.
Download the survey for your school’s learning environment snapshot.
IDEA's Innovation Tours—which take place in various locations around the country— visit four schools that practice democratic education, and discuss what's happening in each one. The tours are an opportunity for professional development and networking with teachers from around the country.
- Blogs and Podcasts
Read entries from IDEA’s bloggers and listen to viewpoints from educators—people of different ages, backgrounds, locations, and roles in education who are passionate about learning that matters.
- Stay Connected
Learn about the latest events and resources in innovative education through IDEA’s free e-newsletter, and see what IDEA is highlighting in its Facebook showcase and Eduvation Library.
You can sign up for the free IDEA e-newsletter here.
Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA) is national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure that all young people can engage meaningfully with their education and gain the tools to build a just, democratic, and sustainable world. The one year-old organization collaborates with communities around the country to reclaim and reinvent education, in ways that develop compassionate citizens and changemakers.
- What is Democratic Education?
Sure, we teach democracy in our schools—but we need to practice it there, too.
- Free to Be Me
Gia Rae Winsryg-Ulmer knew she found her place to teach when she walked through the doors of Brooklyn Free School three years ago.
- Curriculum & Resources: National Youth Leadership Council and This I Believe
Here are two dynamic organizations that offer your students opportunities and engaging resources to express and act on what they believe.
READ NEWSLETTER: Tales of a Beginning Teacher :: Prison food vs. School lunches