The District will ensure that students become responsible, independent, lifelong learners capable of making informed decisions in a democratic society as well as in the dynamic global community.
Students will demonstrate knowledge and understanding of community accepted intrapersonal, interpersonal and civic values consistent with the ICCSD Equity Statement. Students will demonstrate acceptance and internalization of those values through their behavior during the school day.
This statement struck me as internally inconsistent, so I submitted the following comment:
I’m a little puzzled by this statement. Isn’t there an inherent tension between (1) wanting students to be independent thinkers who can participate in a democracy, and (2) insisting that they “accept and internalize” a particular set of values? The former sounds like education to me; the latter sounds like indoctrination.
I’m in complete agreement with the ICCSD Equity Statement. But I don’t think you promote those values by setting out to make kids agree with them -- which, if anything, is likely to engender resentment and resistance. The goal of education should be to promote inquiry, not to dictate beliefs and values.
I’d love it if our schools did encourage the kids to be independent thinkers who could someday participate intelligently in our democracy. My experience, though, has been that the schools put much more energy into ensuring that the kids are quiet and obedient than into fostering people who are able and inclined to participate in a democracy. You can’t put that much emphasis on behavioral compliance without undermining the values of inquiry and independent thought.
Ultimately, democracy is about questioning the rules of the world you find yourself in. But our schools seem to be working awfully hard at achieving unquestioning compliance with rules, and I’m afraid that attitude is reflected in the idea that we should set out to get the kids to “accept and internalize” community-accepted values.
The district’s use of PBIS -- which aims to achieve behavioral compliance not through engaging the students in thinking about what’s right and wrong, but by developing conditioned responses to token rewards -- and its character education program -- which focuses largely on obedience -- are two examples that leap to mind.
My main post on PBIS is here, and on “Character Counts” here. More on this topic generally here, here, and throughout the site.
UPDATE: I just submitted this follow-up comment:
As an alternative, how about something like this:
“The district aspires to prepare its students to be independent and capable participants in a democratic society. It is not the district’s goal to indoctrinate the students into any one set of beliefs or opinions. Instead, the district seeks to foster an environment in which students are encouraged to question received ideas, to think deeply about value questions, and make their own informed judgments, as they will be called upon to do when they become voters.”
I’d even be fine with adding a line like, “Nothing in this statement means that the district shouldn’t adopt and enforce rules about student conduct.” Of course schools will have rules; what concerns me is the effort to get compliance at the expense of core educational values, like the importance of thoughtful reflection and inquiry.
My comments are currently