Gary Daynes—Enculturating the Young in a Social and Political Democracy

 “ Moral Dimensions are lovely words on the page,” said Dr Gary Daynes at the beginning of his presentation on the topic. “But they are vexing in their implementation,” he added with a smile.

Dr Gary Daynes, Associate Director of the BYU Freshman Academy, was the third speaker in the Moral Dimensions lecture series sponsored by the Center for Improvement of Teacher Education and Schooling (CITES) and the McKay School of Education. Dr Daynes’ lecture, “Enculturating the Young in a Social and Political Democracy” was presented in the auditorium of the Harold B. Lee Library in January 2005. He addressed the first of four Moral Dimensions which act as a foundation for the work of CITES. Perspectives on other Moral Dimensions have been addressed in two previous lectures presented in the fall of 2004.

Looking at the language of his topic, Dr. Daynes chuckled as he pointed out, “Enculturate is a squishy word that spell check doesn’t recognized.”

“There are conflicting definitions of democracy,” he continued, as the basis for suggesting his own. Dr. Daynes described social democracy is a set of conditions that result when unrelated people put themselves in constant contact for reasons of mutual benefit. He differentiated political democracyas unrelated people who come together to make decisions about situations, which are in the intersections of their lives. He argued that social democracies are like neighborhoods, while political democracies are like networks of neighborhoods, and noted that these definitions also apply nicely to schools.

“Classrooms are like neighborhoods and districts are like networks,” observed Dr. Daynes. “Learning takes place in a way that is analogous to neighborhoods and networks.”

To illustrate the application of these definitions in regard to enculturating youth in political and social democracy, Dr. Daynes told a story beginning with the end; in Marne Issacson’s classroom of high-risk students located in Provo District.

The story begins in the late 1800s, in the meat packing districts of Chicago, and features Jane Addams, a woman who grew up outside of Chicago. Addams renovated an old dilapidated mansion, into a community-gathering place, complete with a café, a preschool, a public hall for debate, and a reading room. She wanted a place where students from the University of Chicago and local citizens could work together to solve local problems. The Hull House, as it came to be known, transformed into a gathering place where people solved problems together through learning together.

For instance, when garbage was piling up in the streets, Addams and her house participants did a study to determine which garbage collectors were doing their job and which were not. Addams and her group measured up to 18 inches of compacted garbage on the streets of the poor sections of town, proving that trash collectors were not doing their job in poor sections. When Addams brought her study results to the press and government, she was appointed trash collector for her area. Other results included citizens, many of whom were immigrant women, learning important lesions about sociology, public health, and political process and change.

In Addams’ work at the Hull House educators noticed the changes within participating individuals, as well as the whole community and drew connections between the learning done at Settlement House with the learning of graduate students.

Years later, John Dewy became friends with Addams. He even stayed at the Hull House to observe the learning and community connections. Dewey’s experience at Hull House influence much of his thinking on education and democracy, which influenced many Utah educators, including many who saw Dewey when he visited Brigham Young Academy in 1901. Other Utah educators were influenced as they worked and studied with Dewey. On of these was Henry Aldous Dixon, who was influenced by both Dewey and Addams’ research and theories. Dixon became an illustrious educator in Utah, who, starting in the 1930’s, developed a complete curriculum around the issues of Deer Creek Dam. Dixon’s students developed a multitude of interdisciplinary skills as well as knowledge about their civic system and ownership for the social processes of their community.

Today, Dixon’s civically connected model is being used by Marne Isaacson to teach high-risk students in Provo District. “Ms. Isaacson creates a neighborhood in her classrooms, that connects to the community and broader functions of society” explained Dr. Daynes. “Her students have learned well. They become rich participants in a social and political democracy”.

As the work of Addams, Dewey, Dixon, and Isaacson shows, democracy can be an important environment for learning and schools can be places to enculterate the young in democracy. Yet Dr. Daynes counseled educators to place learning first—not democracy.

“Teachers must see and teach from the neighborhoods,” said Dr Daynes. “Attend to the creation of networks and look for the people who can make connections to the broader vision.”

Dr. Daynes concluded, “Be explicit about democracy and its value in education.”

Dr. Daynes' Biography information

Gary Daynes is the Associate Director of Freshman Academy, a learning communities initiative that helps new BYU students develop good habits of learning and make a successful transition to the university. Prior to joining Freshman Academy he was the Executive Director of Utah Campus Compact, the state-wide consortium that supports service-learning in higher education. He has also served as a member of the History Department at BYU, and as the Director of the American Heritage Program here.

He has a PhD in American History from the University of Delaware. His research focuses on history, community, and learning. He has published histories of, among other things, service-learning, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and orchards in Utah County; and investigations of the role of social networks, partnerships, and transitions in student learning. He is currently working on a paper describing the sorts of pedagogies that work with first-year students, and a study of what freshmen mean when they say classes are boring.

Department List Content Types: 
Educator Preparation Program (EPP)