Our 11th-grade American history teacher didn’t mince words. “I am going to teach you about democracy in an autocratic manner,” he said on the first day of class.
The stab at irony may have produced some smiles, but none of us expected it to be any different. Of course, he would be an autocrat. School was an autocratic institution. We all knew that.
Deborah Meier may have known it, but she didn’t accept it. The renowned progressive educator has spent her career not only preaching but practicing progressive, democratic principles at places like Central Park East schools in New York and Mission Hill School in Boston.
Speaking last week to an audience at the Indiana University School of Education, she said it’s odd that we send our kids to “thoroughly autocratic” schools and expect them to learn democratic citizenship.
“There are very few places where young people experience what democracy looks like,” she said.