Around the 50 states, July Fourth Naturalization ceremonies welcome joyous new citizens to the United States. What aspects of life in the U.S. beckon people from all over the world to this country? Each Independence Day I set aside time for reflection and conversation about the wellbeing of our democracy. This year I turn to a few key points made by philosopher/educator John Dewey in 1937. As friends gather our talk will focus on the following 5 quotes and then we’ll follow our conversation wherever it takes us. To start, as always, we go round the circle and respond to each quote with a one-sentence question. Here are Dewey’s quotes and my questions. See what you think and join in:
1) “All those who are affected by social institutions must have a share in producing and managing them.” Are we more inclusive or more exclusive in shaping our schools, for example?
2) “The foundation of democracy is faith in the capacities of human nature; faith in human intelligence….” Am I a believer?
3) “Belief in equality is an element of the democratic credo.” What is one example of obvious disbelief in equality showcased in current local, state, or national legislation?
4) “Unless democratic habits of thought and action are part of the fiber of a people, political democracy is insecure. It cannot stand in isolation. It must be buttressed by the presence of democratic methods in all social relationships.” Is every voice heard in all of my personal relationships?
5) “Everywhere there are waves of criticism and doubt as to whether democracy can meet pressing problems of order and security.” What is one shining example of democratic success in addressing social problems?
Democracies flounder and ultimately fail without citizen involvement. All citizens. What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than by taking a close look at this nation? What better way to honor it than by commitment to action?
Marietta McCarty is the author of Little Big Minds: Sharing Philosophy With Kids and How Philosophy Can Save Your Life: 10 Ideas That Matter Most.