In the seventies, countries lauded American education as one of the best systems in the world. Then came the accountability movement. What was measured was what counted. Those who measured low were punished. Those who measured high were rewarded. With measurements came the loss of emphasis on the critical thought so necessary to the preservation of American democracy and improving the American way of life.
Where do children learn the skills, practice and habits of democracy? Sharron Goldman Walker’s second volume on democracy in education asks educators, especially teachers and principals, to contemplate their roles in education and its connections with the preservation of American democracy. Do we send children to school to learn only how to achieve high scores on high stakes tests? If democracy is not learned by practice in the schoolhouse, how will children recognize it when they leave it? Will they be able to critically reflect upon the issues presented to them? Today’s politics have descended into mutual shouting matches, name-calling, hate and fear. Without the ability to critically reflect upon divergent views through reasoned discourse what will be the quality of the democracy? If democracy in education is not practiced in the schoolhouse, democracy in America will vanish.
Sharron Goldman Walker is an educational prophet, one who listens and then speaks. Her approach is as radical as our nation, rooted in democracy that is learned by practice in the schools. If democracy is to survive, children must learn how to live it, through reasoned discourse and thoughtful reflection on divergent views. Today’s politics have descended into shouting matches, name-calling, hate and fear. Verbal violence leaks into our schools and morphs into physical harm. Her prescription for problem solving in education is understandable, her style engaging, and her vision possible. The quest for self-governance gave our ancestors the will to fight and die; the same quest might give children the will to live and learn. All educators can find in this book a source of exploration, examination, and excitement.