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Growing Democracy in Wisconsin and Beyond

Image: Growing Democracy
If you have been watching the news or following events on Twitter, you already know that my home state of Wisconsin has clearly been a hot bed of democracy in recent weeks. Regardless of your views of events in the Badger State, what is true is that we are witnesses to democracy in action. I say that democracy is a learned belief and must be practiced — so it gets stronger.

Every educator in American schools must engage youth and children in developing a sense of responsibility so they may take their place now and in the future in the American democracy – some in Wisconsin, some in the United States and some across the globe.

Each March,
my school district hears an update on the subjects of service-learning, character education and the civic mission of schools. School and teacher leaders lead this work lead the discussion on citizenship education and the ongoing plan to engage youth and children in school – to create citizens to support America’s democracy – and to help ensure that our students are connected to their teachers and community. You can check out the most recent report here.

Civic education crosses the line between schools and communities. It reflects a more inclusive definition of education. Civic education is open-ended learning. Through our young people’s civic participation, we aren’t trying to have them learn or adopt opinions or solutions we think are right. Instead, in the schools and in their community, we must provide them with opportunities to learn, deliberate and act in ways that seem best to them both in the school and outside the school

Across the grades, I believe students need to develop a sense of responsibility and seek opportunities for leadership and understanding. John Dewy wrote so long ago about how necessary it is that citizens reinvent their democracy every generation. Active learning and research occurs when service is linked to what they are studying in school. In Wisconsin, we aren’t just doing that in 2011, but working to be sure the roots of our democracy grow deep for future generations.

Image: William Hughes
About the author: Dr. William Hughes has worked in education for  31 years as a teacher, principal, superintendent of schools. He has served as Superintendent of the Greendale School District in Greendale, Wisconsin for the past 14 years. Greendale is a garden community and one of three greenbelt communities in the United States. It is a suburban district of about 2,600 students located in the Milwaukee metro area; an area known for high achieving schools.  Greendale is known for its high level of student achievement with over 90 percent of graduates attending higher education institutions, ongoing community engagement on multiple levels, along with collaborative relationships with bargaining groups while retaining a focus on children, service, citizenship and learning. He is a former board member of the Milwaukee Area Technical College, a member of the National School Climate Council, board member of the National Center for Learning and Citizenship and adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

You can contact William Hughes at
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