Children in a Democracy
In chapter two of “Learning and Teaching Elementary Social Studies” by Arthur Ellis, it discusses the importance of having children becoming active citizens in our democratic society. Whether that is by doing community service, making the classroom a miniature democracy or connecting with families outside the classroom, the biggest contribution a teacher can make to their students is to make them become active citizens in their own world.
The entire time while I was reading this chapter, I couldn’t help but think of Disney Channel’s Girl Meets World. Silly, I know; however, it seems as though every way that Mr. Matthews, the middle/high school history teacher, sets his classroom up is straight from this textbook.
Cory Matthews, along with many other adult figures in the series, teaches the main kids about having their own world and taking responsibility for being an active citizen in and outside of it. A continuation of a life lesson he teaches them is the secret of life: People change people. Just like in history texts and in a democratic society, people have and always will rely on each other to influence our opinions and well, our entire world.
Back in high school, I had the blessing of having one of the best teachers as my AP US History instructor. Going into the class, I was entirely scared for what the year was to bring. I had heard of his high standards for his students, the 80 tests he gives throughout the year, and how he made you question everything you thought you knew about America. It was the hardest class I had and still have ever taken, but the outcomes of that class were so rewarding. Not only did he teach me how to be a citizen in the world, but an informed citizen who can make a difference every day. Just like in the chapter, he made our classroom into a miniature democracy where everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but everyone had to be open to learning. Like Cory Matthews and my AP US History teacher, it is my responsibility to teach kids in a similar fashion – there’s an entire world out there for them to take part in. We as educators, have the chance to make a true difference in history by creating an environment where children can be citizens, learn and grow in a democracy. And that’s what social studies is about, isn’t it?