Fair Society Organization in EducationJune 27, 2021
Kohlberg has often stated that schools should be a center of democratic values and an example of a just society.
Because Kohlberg thought that the idea of a just society was the most consistent approach with the educational understanding of democratic nations. With this ideal, Kohlberg devoted himself to the creation of just societies in the leading high schools of New York and Massachusetts, from 1985 until his death in 1987, as well as consulting a women’s prison in Connecticut for a just society. While Kohlberg himself was not a curriculum developer, his theory, research, and educational initiatives provided good clues for curriculum makers. When all these come together, a solid foundation was created for the opening of just societies, and schools were opened, and Kohlberg’s fair society project was realized.
There are two main reasons why Kohlberg aims to transform schools from a traditional structure to a just and democratic one: First, educational goals cannot be achieved in schools, low student achievement, and the prevalence of violence and drug use in the school environment. The second reason is that the idea of a just society is the most reliable and known best method for making young people active and responsible as members of a democratic society.
In fair schools, students are encouraged to believe in the necessity of rules and develop a sense of responsibility in obeying the rules by participating in the creation of school rules. With this relationship between decision making and sense of responsibility, it is aimed to prevent violence and discipline problems at school, to change the moral atmosphere of the school and to create appropriate conditions for moral development at the same time. Turning a traditional school into a democratic just society is not an easy task. Of course, this is a stressful process that requires patience and takes a lot of time. For this, serious financial support is needed to train and support the personnel and to ensure this. The most important schools opened by Kohlberg and his friends with the first opportunities they obtained; Cambridge Cluster School and Scarsdale Alternative School. Now we will try to give place to these schools in order.
Cambridge Cluster School (The Cluster School of Cambridge): Kohlberg received financial support from Danforth and Kennedy institutions in the spring of 1974 to carry out the fair society project in schools as well. Part of the money allocated to Cambridge schools is to train teachers for moral discussion programmes; the other part is allocated to create a small just society within the school. At the suggestion of the principal of Cambridge schools, Kohlberg was invited as the consultant of the organization group to redefine the educational goals of the school, and the following decisions were taken at the meeting:
1. The school will be governed by direct democracy. All important issues will be discussed and decided at weekly meetings, with one vote from all students and teachers.
2. A permanent committee consisting of teachers, students and parents will be established.
3. There will be a social contract between the members that will determine the rights and responsibilities of everyone.
4. The fundamental rights of teachers and students such as freedom of expression, respect for others, and freedom from physical and verbal harm will be evident.
Kohlberg worked collaboratively with teachers, parents and students to establish a just society at this school. The summer of 1974 passed with such planning and the school started education in September with 60 students and eight teachers who voluntarily participated in the program.
As planned, the democratic society structure was established at the school, with ample time allocated for moral dilemma discussions. The teachers came from the Cambridge school, and they served half-day with English and social science classes. Students, too, spent half of their school days in the Cluster and the other half in the regular school schedule. Cluster students were required to take two hours of daily English and social science classes. Staff also includes teaching time; divided it into an alternative and regular school program. Therefore, both staff and students maintained their positions within both schools. At Cluster School, everyone attended two-hour meetings once a week to exchange ideas on how the school could run better. The day before each week’s meeting, small groups met to discuss and discuss the next day’s issue. Each week, a different group of students was responsible for leading the discussion. One of the group was chosen to chair the debate. The chairperson opened by announcing the first item on the agenda and then asking for reports from the small groups. Afterwards, the discussion was started by exchanging views and if a consensus was reached at the end of the first round, the chairman of the session started the voting. After the vote, the debate is started once again, with this he can get the minority votes to his side.