Educating, Organizing, and Thinking Democracy (pt. 2)

Ed WeeklyEducation Week
Bridging Differences
by Mike Miller


In the final piece of the rich “Educating, Organizing, and Thinking Democracy” Education Week blog exchange between Deborah Meier and Harry Boyte, Deborah says about her work in New York City, “…[I]n the early 1990s we invented a possible answer [to how to do democratic education] that, alas, we were never able to test out…If we hadn’t been stopped by a new chancellor and a new state superintendent we’d have learned a lot.”  Observing a similar experience in Boston, she writes of a similar democratic effort, “[T]hose in power seemed remarkably uninterested in this public solution, and preferred to put their money into charter chains or vouchers.”  She notes a similar experience in 39 NYC high schools, “Again with relatively little attention.  Amazing.”

She is, she says, “desperate” to broaden understanding of these efforts, presumably so they can be expanded upon in public schools systems.  She notes one consequence when they aren’t, “Some of the young admirers of these efforts feel stymied and turn to opening ‘mom and pop’ small charters with more autonomy…” and she asks, “How can we break through the silence by making these public alternatives more visible before they die off as their autonomies are chipped away?”

Continue reading “Educating, Organizing, and Thinking Democracy (pt. 2)”

Educating, Organizing, and Thinking Democracy

Ed WeeklyEducation Week
Bridging Differences
by Deborah Meier and Harry Boyte


Dear Harry and friends,

So what do I know from experience, observation and research about the essentials of schooling for democracy?    I know that education which prepares the young to join and even surpass the adult world, where learning sticks with them, happens best (maybe only)  when the novice is in the company of experts who accept the child as is and takes it for granted that she will become an expert over time.  It requires that the adults demonstrate their expertise in action, and the novice can observe, ask questions, and try out new knowledge in a setting where he/she can fail without shame.  That’s the setting children find themselves in at birth, with a ratio generally of several experts per novice.

What are the special features of such learning?  The novice is accepted lovingly, is assumed to be able to become an expert (an adult), has many chances to observe and to experiment, and has good reason to trust the setting and the people there. Adults delight in children’s early mistakes because we can see the beginning of understanding and competence.  We even cherish their mistakes.

Most rarely reach such a space again in life which rich and poor share. Continue reading “Educating, Organizing, and Thinking Democracy”

HE Engagement News #18 June 2015

Higher Education Engagement News is a periodic newsletter edited by Harry C. Boyte, Senior Scholar in Public Work Philosophy at Augsburg College, which responds to requests for updates and information about initiatives associated with the American Commonwealth Partnership (ACP). ACP was a coalition to strengthen the public purposes of higher education organized for the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act establishing land grant colleges in 2012, on invitation by the White House Office of Public Engagement.

 This issue discusses the new climate encyclical by Pope Francis, Laudato Si as a resource for the democracy movement in higher education.

 Laudato Si

Pope Francis’ contributions to higher education

 Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si, is a challenge to business as usual. “It is time to acknowledge that light-hearted superficiality has done no good,” Francis wrote. “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.”

But one might not automatically think of the pope’s encyclical as a resource for the democracy movement in higher education. In fact it provides two enormously important resources. Continue reading “HE Engagement News #18 June 2015”

Should higher education reject elitism and return to solving real community problems?

In February, Harry Boyte and Augsburg President Paul Pribbenow were interviewed for a Civic Caucus Focus on Human Capital. Here’s an excerpt from the summary:

According to Harry Boyte, senior scholar at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, we must think of colleges and universities as more than a private good, more than a ticket to a job, but as a public resource. He believes that is the legacy of the land-grant tradition, in which there was a great sense of interactivity, partnership and collaborative work and university scholars were seen as grounded in the public problems of society. But he says that vision goes against the conventional wisdom of higher education today, where elitism has become common, along with detachment from community engagement.

Augsburg President Paul Pribbenow says colleges can play a critical role both in equipping students to go out into the world with a sense of agency, no matter what their profession is, and in finding ways to be part of the community.



Civic Agency and Executive Function: An Emerging Conversation

Here’s an excerpt from Harry Boyte’s column in Huffington Post from February 20, 2015:

A conversation is just beginning between practitioners and theorists of civic agency and scholars and educators promoting educational experiences which develop Executive function. It may have large potential.

Civic Agency

Today, most people feel powerless to do much of anything other than complain or protest about public problems from the local traffic sign to racial profiling, from school bullying to global warming. Young people in low income and minority communities especially feel powerless.

Check here to read the whole article.


Special Project: Tom SenGupta Forum

The Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship is partner and fiscal host of the Tom SenGupta Forum (formerly called Changing the Norm of Society), a project honoring, and learning from, the power of ordinary folks to stand for justice, and change the norms of our society for the better. The project is the brainchild of Tom Sen Gupta, long time pharmacist and owner of Schneider Drug on University Avenue in Minneapolis, who convened hundreds of conversations on politics and public issues that took place after hours right in the aisles of the drug store.

Learn more about Tom SenGupta

Star Tribune column: Philosopher pharmacist dreams of a memorial to the common man

Star Tribune column: Beloved community leader to say goodbye to his independent drugstore

Make a Gift

To donate to the project by mail, send a check payable to Augsburg College to:

Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship, Tom SenGupta Forum
2211 Riverside Avenue, CB 10
Minneapolis, MN  55454

Walker’s “Drafting Error” and the Democratic Promise of Executive Function

Here’s an excerpt from Harry Boyte’s column in Huffington Post from February 9, 2015: Today education is “delivered” to students seen as passive customers. This view has replaced the idea that students are agents and co-creators of their learning, as well as the idea that the purpose of education is not only to prepare students for individual success but most importantly to be contributors to a democratic society. The delivery paradigm produces no ownership. As economist Lawrence Summers, no champion of participatory democracy, nonetheless once usefully quipped, “Nobody washes their rented car.”

Check here to read the whole article