For 15 years, I was a drama teacher in two large urban high schools in Minnesota. My classes were designed with the belief that theatre requires the downplaying or even sacrifice of the individual for the success of the collective. Yes, these classes involved practices that helped students rehearse basic tools of performance but, more importantly, they required participants to work together as a group. Each semester-long class ended with a theatrical production written, produced, and performed by the students for audiences of their peers. Careful not to impose my vision on the content of their productions, I worked to facilitate open-ended playbuilding, which is a complex process by which people collaborate to consider a concept through the creation of a dramatic production (Norris, 2009).

In this piece, I invite readers to consider that preparing students to embrace the potentials of democratic patriotism goes beyond the purview of social studies education and should be part of how students and teachers interact with one another across disciplines. Westheimer (2006) argues that “caring about the substantive values that underlie American democracy is the hallmark of democratic patriotism” (p. 612). Among these values are freedom of speech, protection of civil liberties, high participation in governance, and working for social and economic equality.

Author Biography

Samuel Tanner

Sam Tanner is an assistant professor of literacy education at Penn State Altoona, as well as graduate faculty in curriculum and instruction at Penn State. His research concerns issues of democratic education, especially issues of improvisation and race.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.