If we expect our youth to become adults who exercise reflective judgment, responsibility for themselves and their community, and who take part in shaping their country and its policies, then the environment in which they are schooled must teach them how to do that—it must give them practice in real responsibility, real dialogue, and real authority.
Most students in school are treated as if they have no judgment at all, except around trivial, adult-constructed matters, and are given very little responsibility, except to “achieve.” Then, we expect them to transform into fully-functioning members of a participatory democracy at the moment they turn 18. That’s an inherent conflict, a problem that we can name.
Meanwhile, the accelerating rate of economic, climate, technological, and social change makes concepts of student success into nuanced and moving targets that require significant remodeling of our prevailing public paradigms regarding education. Practices that give young people a voice in their own learning, support their broad development including social, personal, and intellectual growth, and connect youth to their local community and the surrounding environment must find renewed life in and beyond the classroom. Student advisories, mentoring, apprenticeships, restorative justice, self-managed learning, and shared governance practices can make tangible differences in a student's sense of belonging, autonomy, and mattering.
Young people are organziing across the U.S. and Puerto Rico for more just and relevant educational experiences. IDEA seeks to elevate, promote, and contribute to these efforts.