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Are schools creating 'democratic' citizens or passive learners?

Can the public schools in the Four Corners area honestly say that they are creating democratic citizens? Are students seen as co-creators of their own learning instead of passive recipients of knowledge?

From my experience as a student of 26 years and an educator of 18 years in the Four Corners area, I believe that a majority of middle and high school students would say that they are rarely if ever engaged in their educational learning experience nor are their views or voices heard in our schools. This ultimately has led to a high dropout and teacher turnover rate.

What changes can be made in creating a more meaningful experience for children and teachers in our schools? If we want our children to become engaged independent thinkers who know how to effectively handle their emotions and positively collaborate with peers and adults, democratic schools are necessary. Democratic schools’ experience must be intentional and a goal and method of instruction that prepare students for greater community involvement as adults. 

What do democratic schools’ classrooms and teachers look like? It is not students sitting at a desk with their hands in their laps being quiet while listening to teachers lecture in front of the classroom day in and day out.

It is a place where argument is fostered and encouraged, giving students the opportunity for their voices to be heard while using their critical thinking skills to inquire and challenge social norms as well as delve deeply into subjects that truly matter to each individual student. This type of learning environment will help foster students to greater community involvement and towards their calling and purpose on this Earth. 

Democratic schools’ teachers share power with students, create meaningful teacher- student relationships, while supporting students in managing their own behaviors which is effective for classroom management and student learning. When students own their choices, they are active participants making those choices work to their own benefit.

Teachers understand the responsibility before them in creating democratic citizens. They are a facilitator, not a “Sage on the Stage” who showers their knowledge onto the students where learning comes from textbooks instead of brain-based best practices that create engagement, curiosity, and critical thinking. Teachers demonstrate and teach cooperation, collaboration, self-esteem, creativity, positivity, etc. 

Democratic students are the co-creators of their learning and valued participants in a vibrant learning environment where students and teachers learn about themselves and others. They engage with the world around them, becoming positive contributing members of society through self-directed learning, shared decision making, individual and group project-based learning, and work in chosen internship programs which will prepare students for adulthood and lead them into the workforce with meaning, passion, and purpose.

Four Corners citizens, it is up to us to better our schools. There is an abundance of research in creating democratic schools stating what it is, why it is necessary, and how to successfully implement new structures and policies. Talk to your superintendents and county officials. Our kids and teachers deserve it!

Support for red flag law

I am writing to in response to the Jan. 7, 2020 article on the expected Roundhouse legislation on ‘red flag’ laws –  more accurately known as extreme risk protection orders (‘Education, recreational pot, pensions look like hot issues in upcoming legislative session’).

Multiple other states have passed these laws because they are Constitutionally legal and effective. Extreme risk laws create a fair process for law enforcement, families, or household members, to ask a court to temporarily restrict a person’s access to firearms.

A scientific study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that these laws can prevent mass shootings. This is why these laws are supported by law enforcement and physicians organizations across the country – including the American College of Physicians that has more than 159,000 members. 

Adopting extreme risk protection orders may help us reduce suicides.  Rural New Mexico in particular is experiencing an epidemic of suicide and the majority of these deaths are by firearm.  Being able to temporarily remove a firearm from someone at risk to themselves may help us save their life.

We all have a duty to do our part to reduce deaths through strengthening our communities and through common sense laws.

As a physician who used to practice in San Juan County and who still takes care of individuals affected by gun injury and deaths from both rural and urban New Mexico —and as a daughter, cousin, niece, and friend of police officers — I hope that we can all support these laws.

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Read or Share this story: https://www.daily-times.com/story/opinion/readers/2020/01/17/letters-editor-democratic-education-red-flag-law-jan-17-2020/4489649002/