Civics education has often asked students to think about what they can do for their country but hasn’t always shown them how to gain civic knowledge or given them the tools to put it into action. This current year, with both the presidential election and a national pandemic crisis, demonstrates how important knowledgeable and engaged civic actors are in decision-making and policy implementation. How citizens and communities understand, respond, and voice dissent or approval of leaders’ decisions is a key component of a healthy democracy. Harvard professor Danielle Allen and her colleagues at the Democratic Knowledge Project (DKP) are reimagining civics education as more than just learning the three branches of government or getting students registered to vote.
"We’re not just interested in students being able to acquire knowledge that will help them on a multiple-choice test. Rather, we want to ensure they build foundational knowledge and understand disciplinary standards as valuable for direct use in active civic practice," Allen says.
In order to integrate student agency with disciplinary mastery, the DKP has introduced a curriculum that is bolstered by research on successful and effective project-based learning and supports students in building a civic identity and becoming informed citizens in their communities.