In July of 2003, the International Democratic Education Conference (IDEC) will meet in the United States for the first time in the 11-year history of the conference. IDEC is one of the most significant international conferences concerning democratic education.
Previous conferences in Japan, Ukraine, England, Israel, Austria and New Zealand have involved as many as 500 people from 25 countries. Attendees of IDEC 2003 will include teachers, students, administrators and parents from democratic schools in the US and around the world. There will also be local government and education officials in attendance as well as those from international children's organizations such as UNICEF and UNESCO.
The Goal of IDEC 2003:
This is a critical time for education in the United States and in the world at large. The education systems in many countries are becoming more and more focused on standardization and a one-size-fits-all approach, creating a situation which only works for a small minority of students.
In the United States, the "No Child Left Behind" plan has been passed into law, specifying high-stakes testing for students in grades 3 through 8. Schools are becoming testing factories as teachers must teach to the test to insure the security of their jobs.
The goal of IDEC 2003 is to gather a critical mass of people determined to push the momentum in a different direction, towards an educational approach based on respect, equality and democracy.
That is the approach chosen by the numerous democratic schools around the world. At these schools, the realization of human rights for all members is the standard of achievement. Staff work with each student individually, and students and teachers have the opportunity to be involved in the decision-making process of the school. Democratic schools are usually no more than 200 students in size to insure that each student's voice is heard.
Although there is much focus on standardization, there is also good reason for hope. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, and the Annenberg Institute have provided funds for the creation of small, innovative schools. The number of democratic schools in the US is growing each year. Furthermore, research from the US, UK, and Japan shows that students from democratic schools are academically and socially as well off or more so then those from conventional schools.
Democratic schools have been founded in a wide variety of settings around the world, from highly developed countries to third-world countries. For instance, Moo Baan Dek in Thailand and Sri Aurobindo Yoga Mandir in Nepal are democratically-run schools for poor, orphaned and abused children. Participation in this conference could give valuable support to teachers and students from these countries in their struggle to expand human rights into the schools.
In order for IDEC 2003 to be a significant global conference, we need the presence of teachers and students from these important schools. Since they do not have the means to travel to the conference, we must raise funds to support their attendance. In addition, we need to make sure the general conference costs are low enough so that these teachers and students can attend.
Background of the Host Organizations:
The Albany Free School is a democratic inner-city school founded in 1969. There are 55 students from age 3 through 14, three-quarters of whom qualify for the New York State free lunch program. There are weekly democratic meetings to decide school issues, and student or staff can call a meeting at any time to discuss an immediate issue. Long-time director Chris Mercogliano wrote a book about the school, Making It Up As We Go Along, published in 1998.
The Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO), an arm of the non-profit School of Living, is the networking and support hub for educational alternatives throughout the world. Since 1989, AERO has helped thousands of educators, parents, and students find alternative schools, start schools, and change their schools into democratic learning communities. AERO publishes a quarterly magazine entitled Education Revolution and director Jerry Mintz published the Almanac of Education Choices in 1995, the first complete directory of educational alternatives.
For More Information:
Please contact Dana Bennis of the IDEC 2003 Organizing Committee, with any questions or communications:
162 Wolf Hill Rd.
Melville, NY 11747
IDEC 2003 Organizing Committee