What is Democracy School?

The Daniel Pennock Democracy School is a stimulating and illuminating course that teaches citizens and activists how to reframe exhausting and often discouraging single issue work (such as opposing toxic dumps, quarries, factory farms, etc.) in a way that we can confront corporate control on a powerful single front: people’s constitutional rights.

Democracy School explores the limits of conventional regulatory organizing and offers a new organizing model that helps citizens confront the usurpation by corporations of the rights of communities, people, and the earth. Lectures cover the history of people's movements and corporate power, and the dramatic recent organizing in Pennsylvania by communities confronting agribusiness, sewage sludge, and quarry corporations. Included with enrollment in the Democracy School is a 300 plus-page notebook of background reading material. For a historical review of the Pennsylvania work through the end of 2003, see a feature article that appeared in Orion Magazine.

Created by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) and Richard Grossman, co-founder of the Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy (POCLAD), Democracy Schools were launched with five weekend sessions at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania in 2003. Since then, the number of schools has grown rapidly. In 2006, there are over a dozen locations across the country offering Democracy Schools, so peruse our list and find a school near you!

The Schools are built around carefully designed readings, clear presentations and group discussions.

    * Each School reveals how it came to be that the law enables corporate managers to dictate their values, and impose their projects on communities.
    * Includes an intense, comprehensive history of the judicial bestowal of constitutional rights of persons on corporations.
    * Learn the secret of how People’s Movements have cut to the essence and won their struggles to be “found” in the constitution.

    *           The Anti-Federalists
    *           The Abolitionists
    *           The Suffragists
    *           The Populists
    *           The Labor Movement

    * And learn about earlier Movements, including the Levelers and the Diggers.
    * Experience the story of Pennsylvania communities, and New England Town Meetings, as well as North Western city battles – in the ongoing struggle to take the power to govern out of the Corporate Boardrooms and put it back in our communities where it belongs.
    * For people of all ages, interests and occupations
    * Classes consist of small groups of 10-15 people like you.

"If you take no other training this year, do the Democracy School. It is a superlative unfolding revelation of how corporations have hijacked democracy. It meticulously deconstructs the historical arc that brought us to this precipice. But most importantly, it then departs into the highly pragmatic and inspiring work now underway that is slowly turning the tide . . . This Second American Revolution may be the most important political work going on anywhere in the country or the world."

-Kenny Ausubel ‘05, Founder and Co-Executive Director, Bioneers

"Democracy School was a mind-blowing experience. During the School, I was forced to come to grips with the understanding that I really knew very little about the true structure of law that controls our activism. Democracy School is a must for everyone who seeks to be liberated from our defensive, after-the-fact reactive organizing strategies."

-Krishnaveni Gundu, ’05, Calhoun County (TX) Resource Watch


Thomas Linzey, Esquire, Executive Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). Co-author of Be the Change: How To Get What You Want in Your Community, and co-author of the Model Brief to Eliminate Corporate Rights.

Ben Price, Projects Director for the Corporations and Democracy Program. Community Rights Organizer.

Mari Margil, Associate Director of the Legal Defense Fund.

Gail Darrell, New England Community Rights Organizer.

Shannon Biggs, California Community Rights Organizer and Global Exchange partner; co-author of Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grass Roots

And other qualified and certified Democracy School lecturers.

Democracy School is dedicated to the memory of Daniel Pennock, a 17-year-old boy from Berks County, Pennsylvania, who died in 1995 after being exposed involuntarily to land applied sewage sludge. Daniel's parents, Antoinette and Russell Pennock, have traveled across Pennsylvania to end the practice of sludge disposal by which waste management corporations reap massive profits hauling and spreading sludge on farmland. Their work has inspired ours.