We need to know what's going to
happen, to agree on what's going on. Let us help decide. Let
- HS student in Denver, Colorado
If you had a problem in the Black
community, and you brought in a group of White people to discuss how
to solve it, almost nobody would take that panel seriously. In fact,
there’d probably be a public outcry. It would be the same the for
women’s issues or gay issues. But every day, in local arenas all the
way to the White House, adults sit around and decide what problems
youth have and what youth need, without ever consulting us.
- Jason, 17-year-old activist in New York City, as quoted
All young people need a
quality education and to get one students must be behind it.
Youth involvement is the missing element in education reform.
- Eric Braxton, Founder,
Philadelphia Student Union
We need to know what’s going to happen, to agree
on what’s going on. Let us help decide. Let us approve.
– HS student
in New York
We can give you respect. We are able to
understand the issues. We can think for ourselves. It’s our education. If we
have a say, it will make a difference.
- HS student in Colorado
No one ever asks us our opinion. The truth is, we
have the most to lose when our schools aren’t working right, and the most to
gain when they are.
student in California
There are 48,000 youth in Oakland’s schools that are experts – who are in class
every day and who have a lot to say about how the schools are run and how to
improve our education… [E]veryone wants to hear from the teachers and parents -
but what about the students? Who asks our opinion? Why do we feel shut out, like
no one cares what we think?
- Student-created report
from Oakland, California
If students feel some ownership in the school
where they learn, we might have better attendance, fewer suspensions and more
respect for keeping our building clean. Also, having a choice in how we are
taught might make most students more enthusiastic about learning.
student activist statement
Go to the district and make a
change, you say, but you gotta be prepared to take the responsibility
of making that change. It's not easy to make a change. You gotta stick
to it. And oftentimes, as youth, we feel that we can't do it, so we
just give up.
- HS student in California
Education either functions as an instrument which
is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of
the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of
freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively
with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their
world. - Richard Shaul (1970)
Any situation in which some individuals prevent others
from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence. The means used are
not important; to alienate human beings from their own decision-making is to
change them into objects.
– Paulo Freire (1970)
Students should not only be trained to live in a democracy when they grow up;
they should have the chance to live in one today.
– Alfie Kohn (1993)
There’s a radical – and wonderful – new idea here… that
all children could and should be inventors of their own theories, critics of
other people’s ideas, analyzers of evidence, and makers of their own personal
marks on the world. Its an idea with revolutionary implications. If we take it
- Deborah Meier
I have heard teachers give it up after a single attempt,
saying, ‘Children cannot behave responsibly,’ then remove all further
opportunity for students to practice and grow in their responsible behavior. I
have also heard teachers say, ‘Children cannot think for themselves,’ and
proceed thereafter to do children's thinking for them. But these same teachers
would never say, ‘These children cannot read by themselves,’ and thereafter
remove any opportunity for them to learn to read.
- Selma Wassermann,
as quoted by Alfie Kohn (1996)
Inclusive and welcoming management and
curricular practices are… the most powerful means by which to ensure that all
students have an equal opportunity to be successful…
- Barbara McEwan (2000)
When adults think of students, they
think of them as potential beneficiaries of change… they rarely think of
students as participants in a process of school change and organizational life.
- Michael Fullan (2001)
Education should not be the filling of a pail, but
the lighting of a fire.
- William Butler Yeats
Schools are compulsory for about ten years of a person’s
life. They are, perhaps, the only compulsory institutions for all citizens,
although those with full membership in schools are not yet treated as full
citizens of our society...
Marie Brennan (1996)
Because of who they are, what they know, and how they are
positioned, students must be recognized as having knowledge essential to the
development of sound educational policies and practices.
Including students as representatives on boards and
committees takes classroom learning into the community and opens the door for
many more students to become involved in the policies and practices that shape
their schools… Student board representatives play a valuable role in helping
locally elected school boards understand how their decisions affect the
[students] they serve and provide our young people with an opportunity to learn
about the important debate and compromise that shape school policy.
- Wisconsin State
Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster (2004)
An individual has not started living until he can rise
above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader
concerns of all humanity.
- Dr. Martin Luther
Somehow educators… listen to outside experts to inform us,
and consequently, we overlook… our students. As teachers, we need to find ways
to continually seek out these silent voices because they can teach us so much
about learning and learners.
From my experience of hundreds of children, I know that
they have perhaps a finer sense of honour than you or I have. The greatest
lessons in life, if we would but stoop and humble ourselves, we would learn not
from grown-up learned men, but from the so-called ignorant children.
Mahatma Gandhi (1931)
We must recognize that
students’ ideas and experiences, as varied and complex as those of
adults, require a thorough and rigorous analysis that respects but
does not romanticize students and student voices.
- Beth Rubin and Elena Silva (2003)
Teachers must resist
the temptation to glamorize student voices, and recognize that the
multiple voices that students bring to the classroom, while
potentially possessing some elements of resistance and transformation,
are likely to be imbued with status quo values.
- Michael O’Loughlin
Knowledge emerges only through invention
and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful
inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with
- Paulo Freire (1970)
children’s voices allows us to know a deeper level
of who children are as learners and, because we have
that knowledge, to expand and enrich our sense of what it means to
- Penny Oldfather (1995)
Students often find themselves preached to about values instead of practicing
them. That’s why our efforts have been to focus on practice rather than
exhortation. Everything we do, including classroom teaching practices, school
governance, students’ experience… out of school, assessment, even the
organization of the school day, is done with an eye toward developing democratic
- George Wood (2000)
teach is to learn twice.
– Joseph Joubert (1782)
...School can be far more than a place that
allows only some students to serve on the student council... School
can be a place whose very mission is to ensure that everyone becomes a
school leader in some ways and at some times in concert with some
Roland Barth, Improving Schools from Within (2001)
It is tempting to think that if you just pay attention to
students’ voices, you will hear what you already know. Secretly, adults –
outside schools as well as in – generally believe that they know best.
– Barbara Cervone
& Kathleen Cushman (2002)
The evidence increasingly points to an innate disposition [in students] to be
responsive to the plight of other people… Creating people who are socially
responsive does not totally depend on parents and teachers. Such socializing
agents have an ally within the child.
– Martin Hoffman (1967)