Trust children: an analysis of four democratic schools and the recommendations that emerged

If teachers in the 21st century desire to create a critical impact on their students and democracy, then they must strive to make their classrooms more democratically centered. They must actively cultivate an experience within their classroom that fosters democracy for their students, allowing them to live and practice democracy from an early age. Democratic Education teaches students to be socially responsible and active citizens by allowing them to balance a greater amount of freedom and responsibility, preparing them for their roles as active and civic adults. The purpose of this study was to explore the guiding principles of four democratic schools, compare their similarities, and to make recommendations for public school teachers who are interested in creating a more democratically centered classroom based on those similarities. The study examined the following four schools: Summerhill School (1921), Sudbury Valley School (1968), Windsor House School (1971,) and Lehman Alternative Community School (1974). While it would be impossible for public school teachers to fully turn their classroom into a mini-democratic school, it is possible for them to implement strategies to increase democracy, especially in the vein of freedom and responsibility, in their classrooms. This range of strategies includes anything from rearranging the desk and tables in a classroom, to implementing Genius hours, cooperative learning, student-centered learning, and the use of UDL. If an educator wants to know if a strategy or action is going to move their class in a more democratic direction, all they have to do is ask “Is this going to offer my student more freedom in the class within the context of responsibility?” If yes, then that educator is moving towards democracy.