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Introduction to teaching for democracy throughout the world.

As the co-editors of the 2003 International Focus Issue, we wanted to begin this issue by telling you, the reader, the background story to its development. In 2001, ACEI's Publications Committee determined that "education for democracy throughout the world" would be an interesting theme for an international focus issue. The three of us had been involved in the higher education component of Step by Step, a program designed to encourage an "open society" in newly independent countries, primarily in central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Because of our experiences with this program, we were asked to collaboratively edit the issue.

You will notice the first five articles refer to education reform experiences prompted by the Step by Step (SBS) initiative, part of Children's Resources International (CRI). The SBS program introduced democratic principles to preschool-age children and their families. Created by Pam Coughlin and funded by the Soros Foundations Network in 1994, the program was highly successful. It soon became apparent, however, that complementary teacher preparation seminars should be provided in those same countries. In response, CRI developed the Higher Education Initiative. CRI staff identified early childhood professionals from the United States, based on their interest in international work and their experience in using adult learning principles in their teaching, to participate in the initiative. Faculty teams received training and traveled to sites in eastern and central Europe--and other countries as well--to conduct seminars.

The goal was to provide an impetus for faculty in pedagogical and university settings to experience preparation that was complementary to that of the children's program, and to promote a culture of democracy in higher education. In order to link the work with children in SBS to that of the higher education seminars, country teams representing the children's programs participated in the pedagogical seminars.

The international educators who participated in the program contributed to the rigor and complexity of the first CRI-led seminars, and have far surpassed initial expectations through their dedication and motivation to nurture the seeds of democracy for children, families, and pre- and inservice teachers. It was always the intent of the SBS program and trainers that the international participants would use and modify seminar information to address their own cultures and contexts, and that the participating countries would eventually conduct their own seminars. The project now has progressed to this point. Nongovernmental organizations provide leadership for education reform in most of the central and eastern European countries that were involved in SBS.

Of course, teaching for democracy is not limited to newly independent countries. This theme issue also includes articles from countries where democracy has existed for some time and from countries where it has a fragile foothold. Because democracy is an idea that requires continuous construction and nurturance, the necessity for teaching democratic principles, especially to young citizens, is an ongoing process, and the principles are therefore important curricula for pre- and inservice teachers. As described in this theme issue, each country establishes and implements democracy in ways appropriate to its own unique culture and context.

The first article discusses the importance of interactive teaching in creating a democratic community of learners. Klein, Surbeck, and Moyer refer to their experiences when conducting an international, cross-cultural seminar in the country of Georgia. While the first article describes the seminar from an American perspective, the second article, by Andrijasevic, presents a translator's view of the same international seminar. His perspective opens a window to the interactions and tensions among participants that were not always evident to the seminar facilitators.

The next three articles highlight the challenges faced by teacher educators from Georgia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Ukraine as they implemented the SBS and faculty initiatives in their respective countries after participating in the seminars. Dundua addresses both the difficulty and the promise of changing traditional institutional culture in Georgia that dates from the Soviet era. Milic describes the barriers and successes of SBS program implementation, as well as comparative information about traditional and reformed educational practices in Montenegro. Interviews with Rutar, Kotenko, and Lohvynenko elaborate on the successes and challenges of SBS programs in Slovenia and Ukraine. They address the personal implications of their involvement in the SBS program, and describe the emergence of democratic practices in their education systems.

Moving from central and eastern European countries to Africa, Kabiru, Njenga, and Swadener describe their collective experiences in promoting democracy while working in early childhood settings in rural Kenyan communities. They discuss life for children and families there, and describe the role the early childhood center plays in improving community life.

On another continent, Dockett and Cusack investigate Australian children's interpretations of democracy. They share the results of a study that examined children's perceptions of national identity. The findings suggest that children are aware of the contradictions in society and of the possibility of being a global citizen at an early age.

Finally, circling back to the United States, Pohan returns the reader's attention to the challenge of providing preservice teachers with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed for effective participation in a democratic and caring society. She underscores the importance of understanding both the rights and responsibilities of citizens living in a democracy.

As these articles and recent global events attest, democracy provides optimism that affirms the dignity and worth of every person. As educators, each of us has a responsibility to support and nurture our future leaders. Education for democracy throughout the world may well be our best opportunity for peace and rationality in a world community.

Elaine Surbeck, Amelia Klein, and Joan Moyer, Guest Editors Elaine Surbeck is Professor of Early Childhood Education and Associate Division Director for Initial Teacher Certification, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona.

Amelia Klein is Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts.

Joan Moyer is Professor Emerita, Early Childhood Education, at Arizona State University, Temple, Arizona.
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Author:Moyer, Joan
Publication:Childhood Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 15, 2003
Previous Article:The more we teach, the more we want to learn.
Next Article:Teaching across cultures in an international seminar.

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