Conference On Democracy

While "think, question, and create" has become the motto of Marin Academy, it is the second part of our mission statement—that MA "challenges each person to accept the responsibilities posed by education in a democratic society"—that inspires the Conference On Democracy, now in its 18th year.

The Conference’s origins were modest: a lunch-line conversation between two teachers sparked the idea of integrating the school’s mission more deeply into our daily intellectual and social practices. Now an eagerly-anticipated annual event, the Conference provides a wide array of perspectives on political, social, economic, and environmental issues that our communities face locally, nationally, and globally.

If this country is to help engender real citizens out of the next generation, there is surely no better way to do it than this.

Orville Schell, Former Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley

Each year, the Conference invites local, national, and global luminaries to share their professional perspectives and personal experiences with the community. Well-balanced panels debate hot-button topics such as immigration policy, election integrity, and environmental issues. In the last several years, the Conference has fueled curricular innovation and community engagement, with both teachers and students planning and presenting sessions.

The Conference On Democracy earned national recognition for Marin Academy seven years ago when the National Association of Independent Schools named MA a Leading Edge School in the category of Equity and Justice. According to Orville Schell, keynote speaker at the 2008 Conference and former Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley, “Marin Academy’s Conference On Democracy is a wonderful and intelligent convocation that comes at precisely the time in their young students’ lives when all the formative intellectual and political muscle of their future lives is being formed. If this country is to help engender real citizens out of the next generation, there is surely no better way to do it than this.”


Innovating Democracy: Looking Forward, Thinking Forward, Moving Forward

Innovation is people-driven progress:  the capacity of individuals to successfully explore a new idea, to realize a material and social effect. Through the development of new technologies, processes, and services, innovation engenders change. Innovation can sustain and promote democracy. And yet, the last century has proven that new and better are not synonymous. Byproducts of contemporary innovation can exacerbate societal challenges, as evidenced by worsening environmental degradation, socioeconomic inequalities, and heightened divisiveness.

COD 2022 challenges every individual to recognize innovation as a process with shared social purpose, understanding that  it is not merely driven by scientific and technological advancement, but rather, it is  a negotiated political process that  involves choice and ethical decision-making. Innovation, in its best form, is a forward-looking, forward-thinking, and forward-moving influence with the power to positively impact our democracy . 

How does innovation impact democracy? 

How can we shape and utilize innovation to create a stronger, more equitable democracy?

How can innovation effect positive change?

James Hughes

James Hughes

Director of Community Action, English Teacher