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Building Democracy, One Child at a Time

by Margie Carter
July/August 2004
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Article Link: https://www.childcareexchange.com/article/building-democracy-one-child-at-a-time/5015876/

At the end of an engaging presentation about an in-depth project a group of children had undertaken trying to figure out how to catch the moon, a director sitting next to me leaned over and whispered her delight, "Think what our country would be like if all children were encouraged to think like that!" I had to smile because I was feeling similarly.

These children were clearly fully involved and thinking outside the box and their teacher responded with respectful enthusiasm, offering multiple ways for them to explore this ongoing interest. They were encouraged to challenge each other with questions, invent ways to test out their theories, and tell the story of their experiences to their classmates, families, and visitors.

Whenever I see children actively engaged in pursuing their questions and ideas, I am reminded how much more is possible than is typical in our early education programs. Why, instead, do we more frequently see the kind of teaching that John Gatto refers to as "dumbing them down"?

The discussion which followed this lovely story of the children's extended project included some disquiet on the part of some Head Start staff in attendance. Faced with increasing mandates for specified curriculum and outcomes, ...

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