Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013
At the Core Knowledge blog, Lisa Hansel reflects on the need to engage students in American democracy. Inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s 1930 speech, “Good Citizenship: The Purpose of an Education,” Hansel argues that civic education must not only help students understand the basic facts of history, but also reflect on the “duties of citizenship and on showing how leadership and governance work.”
To this end, Roosevelt recommended that students be taken to national monuments, visit government offices, and see how a jury operates: “The child seeing and understanding these things will begin to envisage the varied pattern of the life of a great nation such as ours and how his own life and environment fit into the pattern and where his own usefulness may lie.”
Hansel points out that this vision of engaged students is not in line with the typical approach to social studies. Civics classroom projects generally involve a low level of civic engagement, asking students to form an opinion and argue for it. While this is a good first step, Hansel argues that the strongest form of civic engagement requires more creativity:
Better still—perhaps even beautiful—would be engaging in a research project out of curiosity, resisting the urge to form an opinion early on, really grasping multiple perspectives across time and space, and—perhaps rarest of all—remaining open to changing one’s mind or at least compromising as new information is gathered.