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Deborah Meier on Education and Social Justice
2012-06-18

 

With Deborah Meier is, from the left: Brian Naidoo, Senior Lecturer: Department of English; and Rèné Eloff, Research Assistant at the International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice.
Photo: Johan Roux
18 June 2012

Celebrated author and educator, Deborah Meier, recently visited the university. Meier, ranked among the most acclaimed leaders of the school reform movement in the United States, spoke about democracy and education at a Critical Conversation hosted by the International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice.

Speaking from her experience of the United States education system, Meier said that she had always been primarily concerned by the fact that schools were not engaging children in discussions about important and difficult topics such as democracy, race and class. As far as democracy was concerned, Meier pointed out that most schools viewed the occasional voting exercise as a lesson in democracy. However, as far as she was concerned, voting was the least important aspect of democracy. She admitted that democracy was almost impossible define, but in her view engaging with this difficulty was, in itself, an important democratic act – an act which could and should find its rightful place in the classroom.

Meier pointed out that children were effectively “incarcerated” for the six hours they spent at school every day. She expressed her grave concern about the fact that this time was not used to nurture and develop the considerable energy and creativity that young children had. Meier envisioned a school that could rise up to this challenge. At one point she mused, “Did I miss something? Did we invent some other institution that was taking on this responsibility?”

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