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Abstract

There is a faltering sense of democracy in America’s current political climate due to polarized opinions about leadership’s decisions and antagonistic political parties. John Dewey (1916) proposed that education is the place to foster democracy, as schools can provide a platform to actively engage students in authentic democratic experiences that will empower them to act democratically beyond the walls of the school. The democratic schools that emerged during the Free School Movement of the 1960s and 1970s embody Dewey’s philosophy, specifically with the shared governance occurring in their School Meetings. Unfortunately, American public education’s present preoccupation with standardization, proficiency scores, and accountability in the name of equality creates an authoritative, top-down approach to teaching and learning that is far removed from the lived experience of democracy. Nevertheless, democratic schools’ practices can offer insight for a space emerging in American public schools—the Morning Meeting. This paper proposes that the Morning Meeting is a 21st-century space with great potential to become a platform in public education that fosters participatory, empowered democratic citizens by allowing youth to experience decision making, agency, activism, and the equality that citizens must continually challenge American government to uphold.

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