Journal of Educational Controversy

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Announcing the new Educational Institute for Democratic Renewal

Talk is one thing; action is another. We hope to engage in both. We believe that action without reflective talk is mindless and talk without action is an opportunity missed. Talk is not empty, however, as proponents of the practical and critics of theoretical knowledge sometimes charge. It is merely an opportunity awaiting reflective action. It provides the interpretive frameworks for new ways of understanding, new paradigms for restructuring our experiences, new challenges to older ways of thinking. Sometimes it adds to the growing body of knowledge that has been provided by those who went before us and on whose shoulders we stand. Other times, it confronts the entrenched orthodoxies that blind us and make parts of our experience of the world invisible to us. That is perhaps why John Dewey believed that there was nothing more practical than a good theory.

The journal is a place for talk, a place to look deeply at the tensions, perplexities and controversies of our time. But we also have an activist, progressive arm. In 2004, the Woodring College of Education and the Whatcom Day Academy entered a partnership to explore the role of schooling in promoting and sustaining a democratic society. Our work is affiliated with the League of Democratic Schools, a project initiated by John Goodlad. Our newly formed Educational Institute for Democratic Renewal incorporates our work in developing the journal and our work with the League. In a special section of our website, we share ideas and innovative practices for democratic schooling. Readers can also view our YouTube clip below of Whatcom Day Academy educator Vale Hartley as she discusses democratic practices in her classroom at the 2008 Educational Law and Social Justice Forum that was sponsored by the journal. Vale wrote the article, "The Elementary Classroom: A Key Dimension of a Child's Democratic World," for the winter 2008 issue of our journal.

On our institute's website, we write that "Our goal is to provide an alternative voice for research and scholarship on the educational controversies and initiatives that arise in teaching and learning in pluralistic, democratic societies." One might ask: an alternative to what? We believe that the language of education today has lost its bearings and its moorings. As I mentioned in my posting of March 27th below, silent assumptions underlying our language have controlled the national debate for decades. The language of the market place has become the language of education. Students are talked about as the human capital that keeps the national economy competitive. Although we give lip service to the democratic purposes of education, the language of the market place prevails and all other discourses are on the edge. In a public school system that serves both democracy and capitalism, the public deserves a deeper conversation of the tensions that exist between these two forces. And educational professionals need more public space to create a learning environment that takes seriously the democratic purposes of our schools.

The Educational Institute for Democratic Renewal at the Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University is an attempt to achieve both the goal of talk and the goal of action. It is the home of both the journal and our work in creating a laboratory for democratic practices. The Institute is in its early stages and we will be sharing our progress with our readers of this blog in the future. In the meantime, we would appreciate thoughts and ideas from our readers on what they would like to see from such an Institute. How would it be beneficial to you. Please add your comments to this posting and let us hear from you. Also, does anyone have ideas of Foundations and other organizations that would be interested in joining our efforts and working collaboratively with us?

7 comments:

Elena said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elena said...

Thanks for sharing such an interesting post. I am sure people will positively be benefited by your educational Institute.

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souza1 said...

I think it would be great if you could provide a way for people interested in putting ideas of democratic renewal into action to connect with each other, perhaps by state.

Lorraine Kasprisin said...

Thanks, that's a great idea. I have come to appreciate networking and coalition-building as important forces for social change.

Lorraine Kasprisin said...

For an article on our new institute, check out:

http://westernfrontonline.net/news/news-woodring-journal-introduces-educational-democracy-institute/

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