Declaring Independence

Gleek’s 5th grade teacher carefully established a classroom economy at the beginning of the school year. About three weeks ago, she started to give the kids taxes. At the same time she started having them memorize the first part of the Declaration of Independence. Then she raised the taxes. She separated the students into patriots and loyalists, then she pulled spelling words from the Declaration of Independence. This week she started levying fines and applying unfair rules. Today the kids were required to recite the Declaration of Independence.

This afternoon the teacher sent around an email saying in essence “Help! Your children are wonderful and obedient. I need them to revolt and declare independence before Christmas break. Please talk to them about unfair dominion and public responsibility.”

Gleek had a hard day in class today. She wants very much to remain a loyalist, but can not help seeing that the rules have become impossible to keep. (For example: You must maintain the quality of work, but I will no longer give you supplies and you are not allowed to bring any supplies from home.) My brave girl sneaked a notebook out onto the playground and wrote a note to the principal. Tomorrow Gleek will arrive at school with a backpack full of school supplies to share. This is in direct opposition to the new “bring no supplies from home” rule. Gleek will share these supplies openly and take whatever consequences come. My little girl is learning about conscientious objection. By the end of the day tomorrow I suspect the newly independent classroom will be ready to start their own constitutional convention.

I admire the courage of this teacher to follow through on such an ambitious educational plan. It is working and these kids will never forget.

Dec 18, 2011 Update: The kids had their revolution the very next day and the unfair taxes were repealed. Gleek loves her teacher again and learning will continue after the Christmas break.

I should also note that while I truly admire this teacher and this method of teaching, it must be handled with great skill and advance forethought. It puts a big strain on both the teacher and the students because the emotions involved are real. It can go very badly. In this case it did not.

6 thoughts on “Declaring Independence”

  1. I think that’s a great way to teach the children, and find it both amusing and revealing that the children aren’t revolting. It shows that either the children are well trained, that they really like their teacher, or most likely a bit of both.

  2. My sister teaches fifth grade at a Provo elementary school and uses the same curriculum to teach the unit. She occasionally has an ultra-obedient class, but enjoys coming up with ever more ridiculous taxes on them. One year she dressed up in a lot of fake jewelry and told the class that is what she had spent their tax money on. They were furious because taxes aren’t supposed to be used for things like that. They always revolt in the end, and they always remember it after they leave her classroom.

  3. Risky. The Third Wave showed, that children will accept a large variety of rules, if they are proper introduced. I wonder how often the Teacher has to appeal to the parents to get the desired result.

  4. This is my third child to go through the class and it has been interesting see how differently each child has reacted. My oldest was the leader of her class rebellion. It was fun to see her civil disobedience play out in the class. My son vividly remembered his older sister writing a declaration of independence so we talked about ways he could still enjoy the revolution. He decided to play the role of dual agent. He was a fierce loyalist in front of the teacher and acted like the teacher’s right hand man. She rewarded him with extra privileges and classroom money. However, on the playground, he secretly funded the revolution and gave the other kids opportunity to rebel. Kid number three knew it was time for the revolution so she decided to wait to see how long it would take for the others to break. Each day she tells us about the increasingly unfair classroom practices and she feels frustrated that the other kids are willing to let the teacher take away their rights. We’ve talked at home how easy it is to lose our freedoms-I just wish it were this obvious in real life.

  5. Wow, this is a brillant use of class time and a great learning experience I think. I hope that this style of teaching will lead to more active adults in 30 years

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