Educational Experience

Civic education empowers people to be well-informed, active citizens and gives them the opportunity to change the world around them. It is a vital part of any democracy, and equips ordinary people with knowledge about their democracy and the Constitution. People therefore understand the importance of active citizenship to a healthy democratic political system.
When young people discover they can be agents of change, wonderful things happen. They start to serve in the neighborhoods, learn about public issues, create innovative solutions to tough public challenges and eventually become the voters, community project builders and leaders in our communities and nation. Central to this transformation from spectator to citizen is an understanding of who we are as individuals, our core democratic values, and the roles individuals can play. Civic education should be a central focus of public education in every school in America but as Chomsky has alluded, most public-school systems are based on a hierarchical system that do not reflect or support the nature or experience of participatory democracy (Bovitch, Cullimore, Bramwell-Jones, & Dominique, 2011).
In my opinion, it’s not enough to teach theory without hands-on practice. We teach young people the facts about civic participation in the outside world of the classroom rather than establish democratic principles and practices within school environment itself, then schools can be true incubators for active citizens. Currently a child in a typical public school will spend their K – 12 years under a hierarchical system equivalent to dictatorship. Upon graduating we expect them to automatically know how to vote, run for local office, and fully participate in a democracy without any experience.
Unless there is a real world connection, civics education will continue to be a virtual nod to the constitution. This is an issue I am very passionate about. In my work with schools I implement practices that echo John Dewey’s “School and Society”. For the few weeks that I am there, I model ways teachers and administers can introduce simple democratic experiences within the confines or in lieu of common top-down decisions and procedures. For example, I inspired schools to let the student’s vote for music in the lunch room, or select on the schools slogan. These are small but empowering choices that impact their daily lives at school, and help to, as Dewey argues, “increase the students’ connection to the world outside the classroom”.
In his education theory, John Dewey offers important insights into how learners can best learn when they interact with their environments and have an active participation with the curriculum. John Dewey developed his theory after making an observation on how the level of engagement made most students to be passive due to uniform curriculum and teaching methods characterized by the teacher and the textbooks being the point of focus while having little attention to the immediate instincts and activities of the child (Laskowski & Spaseva, 2016). The theory by John Dewey is based on a number of principles such as: views education as a necessity of life and a process of living rather than preparation for future living; considers that school as an embryonic form of community life and an effective instrument for social change and progress; considers activity to be an important characteristic of child’s nature which is brought out through his instincts, experience, interest and individual ability (Leshkovska & Spaseva, 2016).
I can relate the above described theory with the material on public art for the creative community. The use of art in teaching introduces the element of activity that John Dewey highlights as being essential to the education system. Guetzkow (2002) indicated that engagement in arts improves physical and psychological well-being. The activity on residency for teaching artist is an ingenious way through which learners can get to learn first hand about the application of civic education in participative approach of engaging in public arts. The students are thereby engaged in an activity that prompts them to collaborate with each other through a democratic process bringing out important creative and critical thinking skills. The students can see the end result of their creative and collaborative process which helps them acquire a tangible sense of the community.
Another educational experience that I have had is on the teaching a class characterized by cultural and ethnicity diversity. In this, I realized that the learners easily pick up the stereotypes associated with different group which may affect the level of collaboration amongst the learners. The project on murals, music & Martin is thus an important activity to helps the learners explore more on cultural diversity and tolerance. The activity requiring learners to interpret Martin Luther King’s quote, ‘We all may have come on different ships but we are in the same boat now” visually, allows them to relate with the diversity in the society. The activity further engages the learners along the civic education as they are required to democratically select the color schemes for their collaborative designs.
It is important to teach the learners that a healthy democratic political system entails the involvement of all parties whether in the majority or minority. There is not better way of allowing learners to understand the impact of active participation by all parties than the use of Dot Dot Seurat Pointillism. The experience with this is that it teaches on the learners on the impact of participatory approach. The activity involves creation of a visual impression using dot. While suited for learners in PreK-5, the activity works well will engagement of the learners from other preschool levels, and volunteer adults. This activity relates well with the theory of multiple intelligences by Gardner that describes each person possess different intelligences that function to bring the uniqueness in every person (Leshkovska & Spaseva, 2016). Therefore, the activity on creating the community impression not only visually depicts what makes up the community but also allows the active participation of different members of the community.
Civic education has been noted to be a means of empowering people to be well-informed, active citizens and gives them the opportunity to change the world around them. This experience can perfectly be taught within the education curriculum and illustrated in the discussion above. Engagement of learners in collaborative activities that require an application of the democratic process is a sure means of using education as a process of living rather that channel for preparation of future living.

Reference
Achkovska-Leshkovska, E., & Spaseva, M. S. (2016). John Dewey’s educational theory and educational implications of Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory. International Journal of Cognitive Research in Science, Engineering and Education/IJCRSEE, 4(2), 57-66.
Bovitch, S., Cullimore, Z., Bramwell-Jones, M. E., & Dominique, P. (2011). The Educational Theory of Noam Chomsky. NewFoundations .
Guetzkow, J. (2002). How the arts impact communities: An introduction to the literature on arts impact studies. Paper prepared for the Taking the Measure of Culture Conference, Princeton University, June 7–8. Cultural Trends, 71.

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