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Ph.D., Harvard University, (2001)
Danielle Allen is James Bryant Conant University professor and director of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Ethics. She is a professor of political philosophy, ethics, and public policy. She is also a seasoned nonprofit leader, democracy advocate, national voice on pandemic response, distinguished author, and mom.
Allen’s work to make the world better for young people has taken her from teaching college and leading a $60 million university division to driving change at the helm of a $6 billion foundation, writing as a national opinion columnist, advocating for cannabis legalization, democracy reform, and civic education, and most recently, to running for governor of Massachusetts. During the height of COVID in 2020, Allen’s leadership in rallying coalitions and building solutions resulted in the country’s first-ever Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience; her policies were adopted in federal legislation and a presidential executive order. She made history as the first Black woman ever to run for statewide office in Massachusetts. She was the 2020 winner of the Library of Congress' Kluge Prize, which recognizes scholarly achievement in the disciplines not covered by the Nobel Prize. She received the Prize "for her internationally recognized scholarship in political theory and her commitment to improving democratic practice and civics education."
A past chair of the Mellon Foundation and Pulitzer Prize Board, she is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and American Philosophical Society. As a scholar, she currently concentrates on the Democratic Knowledge Project and Justice, Health, and Democracy Impact Initiative, housed at the Safra Center, on the Allen Lab for Democracy Renovation, housed at Harvard’s Ash Center, and on the Our Common Purpose Commission at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Learning from the natural sciences, she has built a lab to extend the impact of work in the humanities and social sciences.
Her many books include the widely acclaimed Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship Since Brown v Board of Education; Our Declaration: a reading of the Declaration of Independence in defense of equality; Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.; Democracy in the Time of Coronavirus; and the forthcoming Justice by Means of Democracy. She writes a column on constitutional democracy for the Washington Post.
Outside the University, she is Founder and President for Partners In Democracy, where she continues to advocate for democracy reform to create greater voice and access in our democracy, and drive progress towards a new social contract that serves and includes us all. She also serves on the board of the Cambridge Health Alliance. Her personal website is available here.
Visit my.harvard to see a current list of the faculty member's courses.
Project Zero and the Democratic Knowledge Project, working with support from iCivics and the Collaborative for Educational Services, will design, for each of the 6 DESE-identified Civics Professional Learning Pathways, a flexible, accessible set of professional development offerings that provide teachers with a variety of ways to deepen their capacity to support all learners to become more authentic, informed, and skilled civic participants. Preparation for active civic participation in US constitutional democracy requires transformative (not just informative) learningfocused on supporting students not to simply acquire knowledge but to develop the skills and dispositions needed to be able to use that knowledge in ways that are meaningful and generative for them and for their communities, in and out of school, both now and in the future. Teachers, too, should have the opportunity for transformative learning focused on civics and civic education. Building on the extensive experiences of our organizations in collaborating with teachers to develop and design civics learning experiences as well as a host of other powerful pedagogical frameworks and tools that support deeper learning and thinking for all students, we propose the following interrelated set of activities:
Recruit, convene, support, and grow a cohort of civics teacher leaders who will participate in the design, piloting, evaluation, and revision of the professional learning experiences.
For each of the six pathways, develop a flexible set of professional learning experiences that include workshops and an online course.
Support cross-pathway learning for deepening teachers knowledge of civics and civic learning through an interactive seminar series and providing opportunities for teachers to consult one-to-one with a civics teacher leader for individualized support.
Evaluate the possibility of designing and piloting a microcredential for one or more of the pathways in later Year 2/Year 3.
Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University will participate in the Educating for American Democracy (EAD) Implementation Consortium. EAD is an effort that convened a diverse and cross-ideological group of scholars and educators to create a Roadmap to Educating for American Democracy guidance and an inquiry framework that states, local school districts, and educators can use to transform teaching of history and civics to meet the needs of a diverse 21st century K12 student body. In this continuing work, Allen and her colleagues at both Project Zero and the Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics will oversee the consortiums efforts to select and support pilot projects aligned with the EAD roadmap focused on the elementary grades. The team will also develop and implement a community of practice of professional development providers (including colleges, universities, and civic-ed organizations) in order to build and develop their expertise and capacity to offer civic learning opportunities to pre-service and in-service educators (including administrators) that are aligned with the EAD Roadmap.
New standards from a sweeping civic learning initiative reinvigorate civics education on a national scale
Updated guidelines on the measures that should be taken — and by whom — to safely resume in-person learning