Event highlights success of AFT's Civic Voices project

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To celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Week, AFT president Randi Weingarten and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan participated in an event on May 8 that showcased the outcomes of the AFT's global civic education initiative, Civic Voices.

Randi Weingarten - Civic Voices Randi Weingarten and, to her right, Debra Lesser, Director of the Justice Resource Center and the Civic Voices Advisory Committee, with U.S. educators following the certificate presentation.

In recognition of three years of dedicated work by hundreds of teachers and students in eight countries—Colombia, Georgia, Mongolia, Northern Ireland, the Philippines, Poland, South Africa and the United States—40 teachers from the participating countries presented the results of the project. Weingarten gave them each a certificate acknowledging their service and participation in the project. She said that civic education should be embedded in, not squeezed out of, the core curriculum, noting that the program makes history come alive for students and makes struggles for democracy, freedom, human and civil rights very personal, human and real.

"Something as important as conveying who we are as a people and nation, and learning about fundamental democratic principles, shouldn't be an afterthought in our schools. This is a core purpose of public education," Weingarten said. "But I fear it's getting lost in the market-driven, test-focused, fill-in-the-bubble culture we find ourselves in today."

Civic Voices video

In opening the event at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., the institute's president and CEO Richard Solomon said, "Civic Voices is an initiative that inspires a new generation of engaged citizens using the powerful personal narratives of democratic change-makers from around the world."

Duncan said the Department of Education is thrilled to be a partner with the AFT in the project. "There is so much richness, so much compassion, in learning how to interview, in learning how to engage, that I think our young people today too often do not have," he said. "The more we can systematically provide the opportunities to have young people understand what's going on and have them engage in their communities in a very tangible way, the better they are going to do in the long haul, the more they're going to stay in school, and the more likely we will produce the next generation of civic leaders." [Pat Keefer, Janet Bass/video by Brett Sherman and Matthew Jones]

May 10, 2012