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by John Barell
Table of Contents
I learned what happens when people in public life fail to ask questions.
—Senator John Kerry, reflecting on his service in Vietnam and his time as an antiwar organizer (July 31, 2002)
Living in our democracy brings many priceless benefits—among them the freedoms guaranteed to us within the Bill of Rights. Concurrent with these rights as citizens is our responsibility to be thoughtfully engaged in the democratic process. This means that we become informed about the nature of democracy, about issues and problems that confront our society, and, most significantly, that we learn how to ask intelligent questions about policies, practices, and uses of power. If we educate students to become more active in the process of self-government, if we help them ask the kinds of questions that challenge authorities (in person, in books, and on the Internet), we would initiate an intelligent revolution within this country. Such a revolution would be respectful (unlike the American, French, and Russian revolutions!), but it would eventually change the balance of power in our society. Students would no longer be the dependent, passive citizens we so often see. They would be up, asking tough questions, searching for information, and drawing their own conclusions about subject matter issues, social equity, and the just uses of power.
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