Scholars Release New Framework for History and Civics in Schools

Writing for The 74, Kevin Mahnken recently reviewed a new roadmap for American history and civics education titled “Education for American Democracy.” Excerpts of the piece appear below:

Through a collaboration funded by grants from the Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Humanities, a group of civics and educational institutions spent the last 18 months drafting a new strategy to revamp instruction in American history and civics — and hopefully drain some of the vitriol from our national discourse. The results have been released as a report and pedagogical “roadmap” under the title “Educating for American Democracy.”

The roadmap offers a blueprint of integrated civics and history instruction from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Designed as a model for states and districts to follow rather than a strict set of standards or curricula, the document resulted from the contributions of over 300 teachers and academics who participated in a design process convened by civic learning bodies at Arizona State, Harvard, Tufts, and the nonprofit iCivics.

Central to the approach is a reorientation of teaching from breadth to depth. Rather than focusing primarily on discrete events and personalities throughout the American story, the document centers on key themes and inquiries that recur over time: What gives societies their identities? How and why has the U.S. acquired its power and influence in the world? How have the ideologies of American political parties changed over time?

Danielle Allen, a political scientist and director of Harvard’s Edward J. Safra Center for Ethics, said in an interview that by transitioning from the “provision of answers to the asking of questions,” the project was able to draw upon a wide range of authorities to aid in its formation. The roadmap has won the bipartisan approval of six former U.S. secretaries of education, and groups ranging from the right-leaning Bill of Rights Institute to the liberal American Federation of Teachers have helped oversee its creation.

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