Student Government and a Democratic Education w/ Carla Marschall & StuVoice, Merrit Jones

November 2, 2019
Create a flourishing democracy by putting students in power.

We often think of democratic education as student government - where students are sadly often pigeon-held into a glorified party planning committee with very little power. But what if things could be different? First, we could establish democratic norms in our classroom, where students are on equal footing with us to discussion curriculum and classroom changes - where the topics we discuss in class and the assignments that are given are a contract between the two of us, and our job is educators is to support, rather than tell what to do.

Then, what if we build student governments that operated in the school as an actual government? As in, they have a place at the school board. If they don't get what they want, they protest. And they demand things that every human being as the right to....often to the dismay of legacy administrators. Phones? It's their property, let them be used. Dress code? It's part of the first amendment. Emotional well-being? Who cares about grades when people are stressed and anxious?

This issues matter deeply to students, and they should matter to us as well. The people in our classrooms are well - people, they're human beings. And they deserve the same respect that any individual has. Sometimes ,yes, they're students and they may push boundaries or get on our nerves, but they still demand the rights they're beholden to - especially when these rights are needed to navigate our ever-changing world.

Further, the state of democracy in the modern world is dismal, to say the least. No matter the political party, people are unhappy with their representatives. Money corrupts the system and people aren't having their most basic needs met in some of the richest countries on Earth. Despite social studies being taught to every student, voting in the United States is still relatively uncommon and people rarely demand change. Yes, we're seeing an influx of young people taking a stand - but imagine if all our young people were given the opportunity to express themselves and recognize their voice was heard? The world would be radically different - and for the better.


Carla Marschall, who has worked in various IB programs across Switzerland, Germany, and Hong Kong, and is currently the Head of Curriculum Development and Research at United World College South East Asia in Singapore. Co-author of Concept-Based Inquiry in Action, Carla is an expert at preparing students for a flourishing democracy.

Merrit Jones, who is the executive director of the student-led organization, Student Voice, which in my opinion is the most interesting and exciting organization currently in development. Not only is it run by students, it provides a beautiful website full of exciting resources, amazing student-written articles, and materials for supporting student-led chapters that honestly disrupt the flow of traditional schooling.


Connect the Dots International (Carla Marschall)

Podcasts from Student Voice

A YouTube icon.

watch now