Early in my education training I was introduced to the Father of Progressive Education, John Dewey, who had a great influence on educational and social reform. At the heart of progressive education is raising contributing members of society. The process is not strictly prescribed and the product - the contributing member - is not defined in one way. We are encouraged to seek opportunity to reflect and think critically.
It’s easy to find fault with large, bureaucratic systems and all too often I find myself quick to criticize and less likely to applaud when it comes to politics. It’s important to be critical, but remember, whether it’s about your country, your workplace, your parenting, or anything else, try not to point out a problem unless you’re interested and willing to be a part of the solution. Also, celebrate what’s going right in the world and what you enjoy as a result of your government (for example, liberties, luxuries, or public safety).
I encourage you to talk to your children about your community - whether you define that as your home, neighborhood, school, county, state, country, or the world - and how they can serve. It begins with understanding how our system works. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know all the inner workings of government if that’s your goal. Take the time to learn with your child. Or even let your child teach you. Take the time to talk to your children about where you fit as a piece of the larger picture. What are your beliefs and concerns? Young children often agree with their parents and model their beliefs off of them. However, in the case of an adolescent who sees the world differently, take advantage of the opportunity and engage in a conversation.
Is there something everyone in your family agrees on as citizens of your community or world? Can you take action to make improvements with a local movement? Is there a clear line of difference in your opinion? Are you brave enough to encourage your child to take action even if you don’t agree with their point of view? Taking part in local government, big or small, is a wonderful way to teach your child and remind yourself about your significance in the world and the importance of community. It can help to build character, determination, and responsibility.
Starting a conversation about how you can make a difference can be as simple as:
- Watching a news program together with your family
- Sharing an article with your children to discuss at dinner
- Attending a town meeting or school board meeting with your family
- Asking your children for their point of view on an issue
And the conversation can lead to important action such as:
- Lobbying for changes in school policy
- Campaigning for a local or national issue
- Supporting a local program
- Nurturing a true appreciation for your world