In my opinion, there is no more thoughtful and well-written person out there contributing to the discussion about the continuing development of American society than my friend and activist for education alternatives, Ron Miller. His recent piece, “Toward Participatory Democracy”, published in Education Revolution, eloquently elaborates on an activist thread in American history that motivates my own cheerleading for a more egalitarian world.
Ron has done his research and connected a lot of dots in American history from Colonial times through the Industrial Age, 20th century “progressivism”, radicalism of the 1960s, and the political-corporatism of our current situation. Looking at the big picture, Ron writes…
There has always been a struggle in American history between democracy and elitism, and despite the cherished memory of Jefferson, Jackson, and Lincoln, this nation has never fully trusted “the people” to govern themselves. Sometimes this mistrust reflects sophisticated political reasoning, in the tradition of Plato and the British conservative Edmund Burke, asserting that governance is a complex and delicate art best practiced by those who are specially educated or fit for it, or by those who claim to have a greater stake in the outcome.
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It is stunning to me the “adultism” demonstrated by the disrespectful ways many adults still treat children and youth, particularly their own kids. I think it is one of the last vestiges in our society of pure patriarchal “power-over” protocol that is still considered acceptable by many adults in dealing with their children and youth. That protocol involves the assumption that the “superior” adult/parent has the absolute command and control over the “inferior” young person/child, such that any inappropriate behavior by the “inferior” reflects on and is highly disrespectful to the reputation of their “superior” and must be forcibly modified to save face.
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As I have said many times before (from my reading of human history), the development of our species for the past five millennia has been all about the transition from patriarchal institutions based on the rule of strength to more partnership ones based on the rule of law. This transition involves more people becoming stakeholders with the liberty to chart their own course, check the power of their leaders, and contribute their two cents to the growing collective wisdom that has brought us such breakthroughs as the 2008 election of Barak Obama as President of the United States.
For me, a logical step still ahead of us in this progression is conferring more liberty upon our young people so they can be greater stakeholders in their own development, prior to their reaching adulthood. Continue reading →