Democracy: Don’t Just Learn It- Live It

Its often been said that democracy has to be taught and learned by successive generations for fear that itd dwindle or die from ignorance. While I don’t disagree with that idea, I think the way its being taught in schools and youth-serving orgs across the country is mostly wrong.

First, let me answer the question of why we need democracy education. Democracy is the expression of an idea through action. Its the idea that every person has more than a role designated to them; they have a role they choose. If we choose to be couch potatoes, then that’s our role; if we choose to be activistas, then so be it. If we choose to be one role on Monday and a different one on Tuesday, that is our choice to make. Democracy education should teach us about the advantages and disadvantages of each of those roles, and the many more.

This is part of what is wrong with today’s democracy education. Its too focused on the politicians and too focused on consumers, both of which are only small roles within democracy. We need an educative process that teaches young people about parenting, community leadership, business ownership, street sweeping, researching, doctoring… All these positions – as they relate to democracy.

Another major disjunction in our democracy education programs, classes and schools is that we’re too focused on teaching the formalities of the democratic process. Instead of voting, parlimentary procedure and other obtuse concepts that are marginally useful in daily living. Instead of that potentially alienating and disenfranchising experience – especially for youth – we should focus on developing the democratic attitudes and expressions of young people. What does it *feel* to be democratic? How do (lower case “d”) democrats think? Let’s focus on experiencing those realilities that can inform everyone’s whole life, rather than what we have been.

These are just some ideas on the outset of a much larger conversation – join me!

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

Published by Adam

For almost two decades, Adam F. C. Fletcher has led international outreach focused on engaging people successfully. Working with thousands of youth-serving nonprofits, K-12 schools, government agencies, international NGOs and other organizations around the world, his work spans the fields of education, public health, economic development and social services, and includes professional development, public speaking, publishing, social media and more. He founded the Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement, SoundOut and CommonAction, as well as writing more than 50 publications and 500 articles. He has also established 150-plus community empowerment projects.

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