Authentic Youth Engagement: Students Are Citizens Now

  Last week’s blog explored the educational myth that students don’t do real work in school.  I recounted the story of Annalise and The College School’s wind turbine, a powerful example of authentic youth engagement.

The myth, of course, is that students are not capable of making meaningful contributions to society.  The sad truth is that many schools are organized in ways that are purposefully meant to limit students’ innate capacity for action and involvement in real issues.  Schools that unleash the true potential of students to be active citizens equip and experience students as leaders.

In a speech to a group of 200 gathered at Shelburne Farms, Vermont on July 17th of 2008, Peter Senge put it this way:

School is the  most influential institution in modern society.  There are many ways to design an organization that promotes learning and the present industrial model of schooling is not one of them.  There are some exciting counter examples, but they have not spread.  The community, cultural institutions and business have to be involved.  We need a broader base of change.  In the eyes of a child, the future is alive.  Maybe children need to step forward as leaders.

Students are fully capable of exploring the questions essential to citizenship. Developmentally, in an empowering way, students' innocence and lack of cynicism lead them to inquire and act with their hearts as well as their minds.  They are not only citizens...they can be model citizens.

Terry Tempest Williams speaks eloquently on this in her book, The Open Space of Democracy.  She writes:

The human heart is the first home of democracy.  It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds and offer out attention rather than our opinions?  And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without ever giving up--ever--trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?

To see and listen to students in action as citizens making vital contributions, we invite you to St. Louis on April 19 & 20, for our Myth Busters Seminar.

For more information on the seminar email Ashley <>