Does Democracy Work?

img_1508This is a special edition eNewsletter designed to help learners think about the upcoming Glassen Essay (Does democracy work?), the recent US President’s inauguration, and about how we can carve out an argument effectively. This task is for all Grade 9 and 10 learners at the Met.

On Friday, as many of us watched at school, Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States of America. The following day, Saturday, people across the world protested — including in Winnipeg as evidenced by the above photo.

Both events speak to the state of democracy in both the United States and throughout the world. Our friends at KQED, a National Public Radio station in California, have asked students around the world to participate in a larger conversation about democracy. The Met School is part of a special pilot this week to try a new form of technology. We will be joining about ten other schools in the US.

This week’s KQED DoNow asks students to respond to the following question:


We will be using FlipGrid as a means of responding to the question and to engage in a conversation with other students. This week’s FlipGrip Code is 71bfcc.Parents and guardians are encouraged to become involved in the conversation as well. Have fun, think hard, and be precise in your response.Sara’s advisory sent a bunch of questions related to democracy to Matt to see what he thought. Here is his response to those questions in podcast form:


DoNow: Does Democracy Work?


All Grade 9 learners at the Maples Met are being asked to consider the following question: Does democracy work?

This question arises from current affairs, namely the recent US election and the rise of Russia’s global power and influence. It also arises from the annual Glassen Essay Contest facilitated by the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics.

Recently, Canada has gone through a federal election and we have witnessed a provincial election here in Manitoba. Both of these elections offered points of discussion related to electoral reform and concepts such as first-past-the-post.

These recent events beg the question as to whether or not democracy actually works in 2016. What do you think? Does Democracy work?

To begin, we need to conduct some research and answer some guiding questions (and perhaps Crash Course can help begin the discussion):

What is democracy? What is the difference between democracy and liberal democracy? Is democracy just voting, or more? Here is a great opinion piece from Al Jazeera which looks at the state of democracy and also touches on some key concepts.

When and why democracy? Democracy has not and is not the norm. What is the history of the evolution of democracy? Here is a great BBC timeline of the continuity and change of democracy. Similarly, the Nobel Prize has a great map  will help us ground our thinking in history.

Here is a great article for the New York Times which looks at the stability and longevity of democracies. Also here is a fantastic interview conducted by Michael Enright of CBC’s The Sunday Edition with renowned political philosopher Michael Sandel. In this interview, Sandel speaks to the state of democracy.

Your final product will of course be a submission to the Glassen Essay Contest. In the meantime please comment below or via Twitter (using #DoNowDemocracy) to further our discussion and/or share resources.

You can add resources to the Padlet located here.

Project-Based Learning Book: RFP

Project-Based Learning Book: Request for Proposals

Are you an educator who uses the passion and experience of students and projects for learning? Are you obsessed with assessment? Do you foster learning environments of inquiry and rigour? Want to share your journey and action research with other educators?

If so, consider sharing your work by contributing a chapter to a book of exemplary ideas from schools, colleges, and homes throughout the world. The purpose of this book is to share exemplars of project-based learning and how it makes a difference in the lives of our learners, families, and communities.

This is a why and how book, with emphasis on the how. Please provide examples of challenges and successes. Here are some ideas of themes:

  • How has your thinking about assessment changed?
  • How has your practice changed?
  • How has learning changed?
  • How has PBL informed your understanding of place?
  • How have you managed the tension between projects and outcomes?
  • How has PBL opened up the world to your students and opened your school up to the community?
  • Who has benefited most from PBL?
  • Who has benefited least?
  • Or – how do the benefits get distributed?
  • What has your classroom gained?
  • What has your classroom lost?
  • Does it change the power structure of the classroom (for the teacher and among students)?
  • How has PBL changed the dynamic between educators?
  • Has ‘time’ changed in your classroom?
  • Has collaboration altered how teaching and learning occur?
  • Are any ‘new voices’ heard in your classroom?
  • How has PBL influenced pedagogy at the post-secondary level?


Due date:  February 10, 2017 (note – this date is for the proposal only!)

Please send a short (500 word maximum) double spaced paper (a Google Doc and share it with so that I can provide comments) with a description of your proposed chapter.  Please ensure that you chapter proposal has a clear research question and thesis.

Include your name, school, and grade level(s). Note: collaborative pieces are also accepted!

Submit your proposal via email to


Authors of successful proposals will then be asked to develop a chapter for inclusion in the book. As mentioned earlier, the chapter should include a reflective section that examines some of the ‘big ideas’ posed.

You are encouraged to include diagrams, photos, video, and links.  Ensure that copyright is followed and that the work is entirely your own.

In-text citations and reference lists should follow APA guidelines.  Use a 12 point Times New Roman font and double space your submission. Word count should not exceed 5000 words.

Any questions?

Contact Matt Henderson at


Matt Henderson, B.A., B.Ed, M.E

Principal, Maples Met School

1330 Jefferson Ave

Winnipeg, Manitoba

R2P 1L3


All proceeds from the book will be donated to the Seven Oaks School Division Foundation. The Foundation supports post-secondary opportunities for learners.

This RFP was designed based on an original one created by Mike Nantais from Brandon University and Renny Redekopp from the University of Manitoba.

Climate Change Discussion Articles


Taken from the Associated Press

For those who often feel frustrated trying to articulate the reality of climate change and the scientific evidence, here are four articles that I think prove useful:

Scientific consensus: Earth’s climate is warming


Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming


The pivotal role of perceived scientific consensus in acceptance of science

BBC News – Earth warming to climate tipping point, warns study

I have found them useful in terms of engaging folks in meaningful conversations. They will not prove useful in Twitter fights. I really think the third piece from Nature is critical in terms of hope. The article suggests that the more we speak truth to power, the more the public gets onside with science.

The Secret Path

As many Canadians did on Sunday, October 23rd, I sat down and watched The Secret Path — a film telling the story of Chanie Wenjak, a young Ojibway boy who died at the age of nine fleeing from an Indian Residential School. As a white settler, with all my privilege and colonial baggage, unpacking this experience has been painful, confusing, and without resolution.

The following day, my kids and I travelled to our local bookstore to pick up a copy of the graphic novel version of The Secret Path and Joseph Boyden’s Wenjak, the novella which inspired The Secret Path project. Immediately, my children had critical questions about the Residential School experience which surfaced their tremendous ability to empathize. My youngest was devastated by Chanie Wenjak’s story, and forced me to pause and think as to how his story might heal deep wounds.

Gord Downie, lead singer of the Tragically Hip who is dying of brain cancer, and artist Jeff Lemire, the creators of the soundtrack and graphic novel, have been knocked about this week for representing a story that isn’t theirs to tell, and for perpetuating a sort of neo-colonialism. In a conversation I had with an elder, there is a hesitation to fully accept Downie’s historical interpretation. I think I get this.

While I understand the critique, I struggle to see how The Secret Path can’t be a small piece in the puzzle toward reconciliation — at least in Winnipeg, Red River, and on Treaty One land.

Winnipeg’s history is a microcosm for the destruction of a treaty relationship, one initiated by Chief Peguis in 1817 when he made treaty with Lord Selkirk. Peguis’ understanding of treaty was one of intense relationship where we are all relations. Selkirk and the HBC, however, saw treaty as a transaction — a ceding of territory. A few decades later, Canada came rolling into Red River with liberalism and progress on its mind. Indians had to be pushed to the side to make way for rail. Residential Schools served as a powerful mechanism for removing people from the land.

While many tried to resist, notably in 1869, First Nations and Métis alike were pushed to the side and the former were incarcerated on reserve. The same railways, by the Winnipeg General Strike in 1919, created a profound division within the city, creating a genuine divide between rich and poor. Now in 2016, these same rails and urban sprawl drive a wedge between those who control resources and those who had them taken away.

I am a white settler, but I am also a treaty person. I take seriously my relationship and responsibility with all people on Treaty One land. Treaty is, as Niigaan Sinclair would say, a covenant– it is spiritual.

With this in mind, Winnipeg’s diversity and how we have traditionally controlled it, need to be critically analyzed in these days of reconciliation.  A development tax, as Mayor Bowman has proposed, is a step toward reconciliation, calling into question the ghetto-ization of poor people in our city. The removal of the CPR line which divides our city and arguably draws a line in the sand between rich and poor, is one step closer to reconciliation.

The Secret Path and Wenjak, and their potential impact in schools and on Winnipeg itself, are tremendous efforts on the part of people who take reconciliation seriously. The history of Residential Schools should be traumatic for all Winnipeggers and Canadians, and we must provide space for indigenous and non-indigenous people to make sense of this history.

Reconciliation is about recognizing privilege, for those of us who won the lottery of birth, and taking meaningful steps to bring peoples together. Downie and Lemire have made an attempt to do this, fully acknowledging their privilege, in an attempt to bring this country together to some degree.

History, as  historian Desmond Morton suggests, is the shared human experience. The Secret Path is a challenge to all of us to honestly break down the barriers of privilege and to speak openly about how we can share our experiences and move on together. Chanie Wenjak’s sister Pearl and Gord Downie, at the end of The Secret Path, offer a powerful glimpse of what reconciliation might look like.

As a leader at a Big Picture Learning school, I am convinced that our responsibility is to nurture Peguis’ understanding of treaty within our learning community and beyond. Our school community has a complexity and diversity that I believe is our strength. Our indigenous learners should feel that their school is safe, fosters their passion, and honours their experience. As a leader and adult at this school, our first step towards reconciliation is to allow the stories of our learners to be heard and to fully welcome their families into this idea of education. Met schools, I believe, are uniquely designed to fully and democratically unpack the inequitable learning conditions of the past and to create opportunities to mend wounds and deepen critical relationships.

The Maples Met School will be screening The Secret Path on Monday, November 21st.