A Greater Democracy Day by Day - By Sally Mahe

Teaching Ideas

A Greater Democracy Day by Day - Teaching Ideas

A Greater Democracy Day by Day is a book of quotations that integrates spiritual and practical themes and points toward a greater democracy toward which our world is moving. The quotations are organized by monthly themes. Taken together the collection invites a deepening exploration into what democracy means and reasserts that every person can contribute to the good of all.

Teaching Ideas is a gift that accompanies the book and is offered to individual readers, teachers at all levels, parents, young adult leaders and civic leaders from all sectors of society. The ideas can enrich one’s personal experience with democracy and enliven classroom lessons, meetings, presentations and civic encounters of all kinds.

There are three sections:
A. Spiritual Deepening;
B. Teaching;
C. Dialogue, Presentations, and Civic Action

I hope that these ideas work for you and that you add more of your own! To exchange more ways to use these quotations and inspiration this book offers, please go to www.democracydaybyday.com/blog

A. Spiritual Deepening

  1. Place the book by your bedside. Read a quote a day. Sit quietly and allow the meaning to sink in and connect with your experience. If you wish, jot down your thoughts.
  1. Pick a favorite quote each month and send it to people dear to you. Explain briefly why you like this quote.
  1. Find a space in your home. Use each month’s theme to guide you.  During the month look for different images, symbols and words that teach you more about the theme. Place your favorite quotes from each month in this space and add other images and symbols too. Take a few minutes each day to appreciate this space and its meaning to you.
  1. Commit to living into the values expressed in the theme each month. As you read a quote each day, ask how this quote relates to your life. In what ways to do you express this value already?  Do these words inspire new behavior? What new behaviors or attitudes do you want to begin? Keep track of old behaviors to leave behind and new behaviors to begin.
  1. Use the theme and quotes for each month to be a window through which you perceive the daily news. As you read the newspaper or watch news on TV or internet, look for people or stories that exemplify these values - or not. Consider if there is anything you can do to encourage the behaviors you want to see in society?
  1. When a quotation really touches you, look up more information about its author. Learn more about this person and discover other work he or she has created. If this person is still living consider sending this person a note of gratitude.
  1. When you read each quote, reflect on an experience in your life where the truth of this quote came alive for you. Remind yourself of the story. What was happening? Who was involved? What was your role? You might want to share this story with family or friends.

B. Teaching

  1. When challenging issues arise in a classroom, find a quotation that you think provides positive impact or that might inspire deeper reflection about the issue. Write the quote on the board and find time to discuss its meaning with students and how it might apply to the issue at hand.
  1. If teaching history, social studies, or comparative religion, etc. look for quotes that express important ideas from the historical period or particular perspective you are presenting. Students might take a few minutes to talk about their sense of what these quotations mean to them and how they are significant to that time period or movement.
  1. Choose 5-6 people who are quoted in the book more than once. Prepare worksheets with their name and some of their quotations. Ask students to choose one person they admire based on these quotes. Students can research this person and share research findings in class. Students should include why they chose this person.
  1. Ask students to memorize two or three of their favorite quotes. Ask students to learn more about the authors and pretend they are that person when they recite their quotes. Stage a program where students recite quotes and personify the authors. Students might perform for another class.
  1. Post monthly theme and a new quote each day in the classroom. Encourage students to add additional quotes, images or stories that are in the news that also exemplify this theme and these ideas.
  1. Use the poems in this book to enhance a unit on teaching poetry.
  1. Use quotes from religious and spiritual leaders to enhance a unit on comparative religions. With the students inquire how these words from indigenous, religious and spiritual leaders speak to values students think are important. If students are not aware of a leader or a tradition, ask students to research this person or tradition and share reports with class.
  1. Create a “web” on a classroom wall. In the center place the word “democracy”.  Each day, ask two or three students to choose one quote from the book that speaks to them about an important aspect of democracy. Students write or print this quote on specially cut paper and connect these quotes to the web. As students place their quote on the web, ask them to explain to the class what it has to do with democracy. When all students have contributed a quote, ask students to reflect on the entire “democracy web” and ask what big ideas or themes emerge from viewing all of these quotes connected to the word “democracy.”
  1. Find the action stories in the book. Ask students to analyze these stories.  What impressed you in this story? What happened? What actions made a difference? What attitudes or values were present? What can we learn from this story? Would we as a class ever considering taking an action to support our values?

C. Dialogue, Presentation, and Civic Action

  1. Greater Democracy Conversations: Engage small or large groups in one hour conversations. Ask group to find one other person they may not know very well and form a pair. Each person is given 30 minutes to interview the other. The listener listens for the highlights and jots down notes.  The facilitator keeps time and reminds pairs when it is time to switch roles. Pairs use two or three interview questions. No advance preparation is necessary. People speak from personal experience and people listen with appreciative interest. It is a heart to heart conversation. When conversations are finished, group may reassemble and speak about what moved them in these conversations. Or, people might gather back together in circles of 6 or 8 and introduce their partner to their small group describing highlights from their conversation.

        • QUESTION ONE: In simple words, democracy can be defined as a political system that gives people freedom to participate in making decisions that affect their lives. The concept of democracy provides a set of principles and values for people and a society to live by. Most of us experience both high points and low points in actually living the values and practices of democracy. For this conversation, reflect on the high points of democracy in your life. Please tell me about a time when you were inspired by or participated in an experience of democracy. What happened? Please tell me the story.

        • QUESTION TWO:  Movement in society toward a greater democracy is made by heroic efforts of famous people and also by a multitude of tiny pushes from people we may never hear about.  Please tell me about a person who you hold in high esteem for their contribution to a greater democracy. This can be a well-known person or some one known only to you. What did this person contribute? Why do you admire him or her?

        • QUESTION THREE: Imagine that it is 20 years from today. A greater democracy has been born in this land. Values that were once only aspired to are now actually being practiced and enjoyed by greater numbers of people than ever before. What kind of world isit? What has changed? What part did you play in this transformation?
  1. Dialogue: To energize a meeting or civic gathering, ask people to break from the work of the meeting. Read quotes from the book from a few of your favorite leaders for democracy. Ask each person to decide what leader of democracy (past or present) they would choose to invite to their dinner party. Go around and invite each person to name one “leader of democracy” and why they chose this person.
  1. Dialogue/Artwork: To provide a change of awareness and/or to offer a break in a tedious meeting, ask people to dream and to draw together.  Set tables for 4-5 people. Have big sheets of paper and colored markers on each table. Many people see that this is a time in our history of breaking dreams, a time when democracy is far from what we want.  Instead of focusing on the problems, create a FIELD of DREAMS: Draw your dream leaders. Draw ideal citizens. Draw the organizations that are doing the most to make a positive difference. Draw your dream city, nation,world. Draw human beings healing the Earth and the transformations that are happening.
  1. Dialogue: To energize a meeting, ask people look in A Greater Democracy Day by Day to find the quote on their birthday. Go around and ask each person to read his/her quote. Ask if it resonates in any way or has a special meaning for them.
  1. To begin a meeting with different speakers and as an interlude between speakers, have people bring quotes to life!  Choose one of the monthly themes that correspond to the theme of your program. Ask people (presenters, organizers, speakers, etc) to help enliven the program by reciting quotations. Assign the quotations. Stage the presentation. As “curtain opens” 4-5 people with quotes to recite (or read) are mingling at the back of the “stage” as if in conversation. One by one they step up to the microphone and recite their quotation. The last person may then introduce the next part of the program or the next speaker, etc.  Depending on length of program this “bringing quotes to life” can happen a few times during the program as a surprising interlude between speakers.
  1. To open or close a community meeting, ask participants to think of one person currently in a leadership position in government to whom they would like to express gratitude. Ask each person to share name of the person they chose. Hand out thank you note cards.  Invite participants to write a thank you note to these people. Participants may want to include a quote that this person might enjoy
  1. To begin a civic meeting, read the introductory theme that corresponds to the current month. Ask participants to look over the selection of quotations for that month and choose one quotation that has meaning for them. Invite people to read quotes to the whole group or turn to one other person and share their quote and why they like it.
  1. To open or close a meeting, call for a few minutes of silence. A bell might be rung to begin the silence. People can be instructed simply to center themselves. After a short time (1-5 minutes) mark the end of the silence by reading one quotation that enriches the topic of the gathering.
News Updates

Apr. 29th, 2009:
New Book Club Project

Mar. 16th, 2009:
A Greater Democracy Day by Day