The Democratic Potential of Charter Schools

By Stacy Smith | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

Town Meeting as a Forum
for Practice

I. Participation in Town Meeting

This chapter aims to illustrate the complexities of institutionalizing deliberative democratic ideals within concrete civic educational practices at Winthrop Academy. The chapter illuminates how the faculty's civic educational objectives are both fostered and hindered as students practice for future democratic participation in the context of Town Meeting. Following this chapter, the book concludes with a discussion of how Winthrop Academy's experiences reflect and challenge the ideals of deliberative democratic theory. The final chapter demonstrates how deliberative democracy's normative ideals can be employed as critical yardsticks for assessing curricular practices for democratic citizenship and offers suggestions for minimizing hindrances to equal and inclusive civic education, particularly in the context of charter school reform.

Town Meeting is a forum for students to practice democracy—students practice civic engagement by having a say and practice civil interaction by exhibiting appropriate ways of being. As the civics curriculum states, “Students participate in a weekly school Town Meeting which prepares them to think about the issues of our day, to express their views and to tolerate and understand views different from their own” (see table 3.4). In Town Meeting faculty expect students to speak in order to articulate their own points of view, to listen in order to hear and understand the views of others, to make public presentations at a podium in the front of the room, and to engage in the use of parliamentary procedure. In these ways, Town Meeting's objectives closely mirror the procedural formality of deliberative democracy's “ideal speech situation.”

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