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What is democracy? “Rule by the people” But more than elections “Democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. …each has to refer his own actions to that of others…”

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what is democracy
What is democracy?

“Rule by the people”

But more than elections

  • “Democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. …each has to refer his own actions to that of others…”
  • John Dewey.1944. Democracy and Education.
democracy needs citizens who do public work
Democracy needs Citizens who do “Public Work”

Democracy is more than

  • Voting and government
  • charity and one-on-one volunteerism
  • the politics of grievance and protest

Democracy is

  • “the work of the people”
  • Includes “everyday politics” where citizens share in the productive, public work of building a commonwealth.


  • should be “co-producers” of public goods.
  • work with government, but don't expect government to solve all problems.
  • respect experts but resist having professionals impose solutions.
  • willing to work through conflict and across divisions to find compromises and solutions.

Harry Boyte

PA FounderAuthor


Center for Democracy and Citizenship

University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

public achievement
Public Achievement

A way to teach democracy by doing democracy.

Usually a youth program.

Allows youth to act as citizens now on real issues.

Youth work on issues they care about.

Small groups called “teams”

Leaders called “coaches”

Goals of Public Achievement

  • Motivation to participate
  • Empowerment
  • Skills
  • Understanding of democracy
roots of public achievement
Roots of Public Achievement

“Citizenship Schools” of the U.S. Black Civil Rights Movement

Community Organizing Movement

Saul AlinskyOrganizer of working classNon-socialist left

Dr. Martin Luther King jr.

Dorothy CottonDirector Southern Christian Leadership Council Citizenship Education Program.

where in the world is public achievement
Where in the world is Public Achievement?

EuropeNorthern Ireland Belfast

Irish RepublicMonaghan and Cavan

Scotland Selkirk

Turkey Istanbul

U.S.AMinnesotaMinneapolis St. Paul



MissouriKansas City Maryville


New HampshireManchester Keene

Middle EastPalestine Ramallah

program basics
Program Basics

Learning democracy by being democratic

  • A partnership between a state university and public middle school
  • 30 university students; social studies majors.
  • University students study democracy in a political science class.
  • 200 middle school students; 12 - 14 year olds
  • PA is optional for middle school students
  • PA meets one hour per week instead of a study hall.
  • Students form small groups (5-8) called teams; one university student is coach for each team.
  • Teams work on real public problems or issues that kids choose.
august to may university students study democracy one class per week
August to MayUniversity students study democracy one class per week

Dr. Joseph Kunkel Political Science 381 Democracy and Citizenship


SeptemberUniversity students trained to coach at Saturday workshopThey learn 1. What is Public Achievement 2. How to get started.

september kids suggest ideas at issues assembly
SeptemberKids suggest ideas at Issues Assembly
  • 7th and 8th grade students hold assemblies to suggest issues or problems they want to work on.
  • Later kids vote, marking their favorites.
  • We form about 30 teams. Most get their 1st or 2nd choice.
issues pa teams 2004 2005

7th Grade

Support U.S. Troops Political Awareness

Teen Depression

Stop Domestic Abuse

Pets and Animals

Disaster Relief

School Issues

School Newspaper

School Decorations Stop Labeling/Stereotypes

Skaters and Skateboard issues

Sports Jerseys

Start Football team

Start Rugby Team

8th Grade

Support U.S. Troops

Trash & Environment Cleanup

Preventing Teen Pregnancy

Stop Child Abuse

Pets and Animals

Homelessness and Poverty

Teen Recreation Center


School Spirit

School Bus Issues

School Decorations

Start Basketball Team

Skaters and Skateboard Issues

democratic process

Beginning Activities of Teams

Democratic process

Discuss their issue

Speak and listen

Write Mission Statement

Agree on rules or a constitution

Research, surveys, interviewing.

Team building games

Use small group democracy written meeting agendashare rolesKeep written recordsDebate and vote. Plan next meetingsEvaluate themselves

Research Information

Internet Search


Learn who can help or stop them


Field Trips

Guest Speakers

Use Political Language

Power Democracy

Self-interest Authority

Compromise Responsibility

Freedom Diversity

Equality Respect

taking action
Taking Action

Not all teams realize their goal or complete a major project.

But most takes actions to learn and try to influence others.

Many teams

sponsor assemblies

fundraising events

publish brochures

take direct action to improve the community.

Teams must discuss their ideas with adults authorities.

Actions and projects must be approved.

Often frustrating but gives real world experience.

examples of actions and projects
Examples of Actions and Projects

Tree Planting at elder housing

Open School Store

examples of actions and projects19
Examples of Actions and Projects

Clean up trash at nature area

Assembly to educate about teen depression & suicide

examples of actions and projects20
Examples of Actions and Projects

Toys to New York children who lost family in 9/11/01 terrorist attack

Get exercise equipment

for school

examples of actions and projects21
Examples of Actions and Projects

Visit law-makers at state capitol

Community Meeting to discuss

teen recreation center



Disruptive behavior

Coaches do not provide authority

Not enough school involvement

Not enough time

Kids don’t pick deep issues

Unrealistic issues

Noisy meeting places

Little work between meetings

Uninterested in concepts

Better assessment of results needed


Coaches learn what groups should do

Kids learn democratic skills

Kids invited to lead

Coaches get experience at school with kids

Kids meet other adults

All learn democracy is something they can do everyday.

Process more important

than Product

for more information
For more information

Mankato PA Website

E-mail links

Syllabus for academic course

“Toolbox” of useful documents

Stories about teams


Book chapter describing Mankato PA

National PA Website

Political democracy, as it exists and practically works in America, with all its threatening evils, supplies a training-school for making first-class men. It is life's gymnasium... We try often, though we fall back often….Whatever we do not attain, we at any rate attain the experiences of the fight, the hardening of the strong campaign,

Did you, too, O friend, suppose democracy was only for elections, for politics, and for a party name? I say democracy is only of use there that it may pass on and come to its flower and fruits in manners, in the highest forms of interaction between men, and their beliefs -- in religion, literature, colleges, and schools -- democracy in all public and private life,

Walt Whitman. 1871. Democratic Vistas