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Supporting Civics Education

American Educator Summer 2017As Benjamin Franklin departed Independence Hall in Philadelphia at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, a woman stopped him and asked, “Well, doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?”

Franklin famously replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Nearly 230 years after the convention, and 27 amendments later, the Constitution remains the law—if we can keep it.

But maintaining a republic, as Franklin suggested, requires an educated citizenry. And educated citizens depend on classroom teachers who impress upon young people the importance of participating in civic life and rejecting complacency. For educators of all grade levels looking to impart such lessons as well as to supplement their materials on early American history, several new resources on the Constitution have been added to Share My Lesson, thanks to the Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) and iCivics.

Describing the convention and what our Founding Fathers debated during it, these materials take students back in time. Resources cover topics such as whether judges should enact laws, which officials should shape foreign policy, and what responsibilities ought to be vested within the executive branch. Although these resources are based on history, the issues they raise are still relevant today.

Given the recent presidential election and our current political climate, many educators likely feel it is more important than ever for students to learn about the challenges our founders faced. Along with understanding historical context, students must also grasp the importance of civil discourse, civic engagement, and civic participation—all of which keep the heart of American constitutional self-government beating.

To bolster resources on civics, Share My Lesson has partnered with organizations that not only support the teaching of content knowledge but also provide lessons on the need for students to participate in civic life. In 2014, Share My Lesson joined the Civics Renewal Network, which is made up of 30 organizations, such as the Center for Civic Education, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and the National Constitution Center, committed to raising awareness of the need for civics education and providing high-quality materials to teachers.

These resources range from online games in which middle school students serve as president and work with Congress, to simulations that ask students to debate questions about representative government and the balance of power as delegates to the Constitutional Convention.

Civics education is more than students simply knowing how a bill becomes a law. It involves powerful learning about history, citizenship, and current events. And it requires students to think critically, collaborate with their peers, and engage in hands-on projects that strengthen both their learning and their commitment to good citizenship.

–THE SHARE MY LESSON TEAM

American Educator, Summer 2017 Download PDF (411 KB)
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