It would be odd indeed if schools to prepare cooks never did any cooking. It's equally odd that schools to prepare the young to assume the obligations of running their society have no opportunity to rule anything.
Building democracy in schools is best thought of as a strand of a larger strategy to resist the rising authoritarian dangers of our time. Such a strategy calls for cross-partisan politics, organizing that sees the democratic potential in every kind of community, and a commitment to defending democracy and also deepening democracy.
Deborah Meier questions whether it's natural for democracy to depend on a heterogeneous population base, where the country's mainstream is not ready to embrace the idea of equality in its fullest sense.
America's history of collective action around schools—schools created by people's public work—is vital to remember in this election season because it is a story of the strength of the people, not the strength of elites. It includes largely unknown stories like the vast citizenship school movement of the civil rights movement, in which people found their strength. This election is all about the strength of celebrity candidates, not the people. We badly need a different public narrative of America.
Where do pre-adults have a chance "to learn democracy," much less get in the habit of expecting it?