Public life: a contribution to democratic education
The tasks of common learning concern the ways we teach and learn as much as the subjects we profess and master. If the development of character means the fostering of skills and experiences that help us make right and rational decisions, then one of the tasks of schooling is to design educational activities that provide opportunities to make and to question our commitments. An experimental course at an urban independent school provides students as well as teachers the opportunity to test the relationship between activity and reflection as elements of community life. The course, called Public Life, focuses on experiences of service work outside the school as well as involvements in the political and social structures inside the school. These experiences lead to ongoing conversations about the nature and possibility of the common good, the relation of good works to a good life, and the conflicts of good intentions with social and political realities. The course suggests one way in which schools can design curricula that focus on the problems and issues that teachers and students share as members of an educational community.