A Laboratory for Democracy

Posted by on May 17, 2002

[Public Education Network]

No responsible educator would advocate teaching chemistry without a laboratory. No good chemistry teacher would assign her students textbook readings, then furnish them with chemicals and test tubes and say, "You’ve read about it — now experiment." Obviously, that would be a scenario for disaster. Yet U.S. educators may be doing something analogous when teaching students about democracy and the First Amendment, said Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center. "Freedom takes practice. We can teach about the elements of freedom; we can talk about them; we can tell students how the government works or ought to work — but unless they have a laboratory experience, it is dangerous. Freedom can’t be taught out of a book. It has to be lived; it has to be

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