Events in Hong Kong have led to some musings about democracy. A large part of our humanities and history curriculum is dedicated to helping students understand the roots of our United States government, and to providing appropriate challenges to their understanding of its practice in their own lives.
Our middle school has its own representative government, called the student council. Its history dates back thirteen years. In student time, that may as well be hundreds of years– the oldest students in middle school were newborns when our student council began.
The founding of the middle school student council is uniquely PDS. A group of students, along with a faculty advisor, were the authors of the constitution. They conceived of the structure of the student council and wrote the constitution as a Central Studies class. Central Studies was the precursor to today’s Day D classes. Then, as now, the program permitted students to devote long periods of time to learn one topic intently and collaboratively. The founding faculty advisor of the student council, Geetha Holdsworth, is a PDS graduate (1986) and today serves as Interim Principal of the Santa Fe School for the Arts and Sciences. During the few years that we worked together in the middle school, I learned greatly from her about what it means for teachers to facilitate students constructing their own understanding of important concepts.
I found the student council constitution when I moved into the Dean’s office. Geetha’s husband, Amos, was a calligrapher, and graciously agreed to make a fair copy of the document. Now that we have the beautiful Learning Commons, we have a central place to display the document each fall. It is signed by each of the students who worked to create it.
They’ve each moved on from PDS– and are old enough to have finished college. Their work in middle school has stood the test of time. At the end of the week, this year’s middle school will elect its new representative government for the year.