Civics and history education can guarantee our democracy

James F. O’Connor

A famous tale about Benjamin Franklin is as follows: Franklin was coming out of Independence Hall after the 1787 Constitutional Convention, when someone shouted, “Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy? Franklin reportedly replied with, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

The findings of a recent poll should prompt the American people to heed Franklin’s response. A new poll from Quinnipiac University found that 69% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans say our democracy is “in danger of collapsing”.

To keep, as Franklin ominously warned, our republic together, the pressing question Americans must answer is: What are the solutions to strengthen our democracy?

One answer may lie in a recent federal bill with bipartisan support, The Civics Secures Democracy Act. This bill prioritizes the teaching of American history and civics from K-12 and reverses the historical underfunding of these subjects. In addition, it encourages more frequent use of the national assessment of educational progress and the valuable data it produces, and supports scholarship programs that strengthen and diversify the teaching force.

By educating today’s K-12 students with meaningful civic and historical education, our democracy of tomorrow can function with a sense of civility, respect for diverse viewpoints, and a willingness to make compromise to find viable solutions. It is essential that each generation learn the practice of democracy and a civic sense of duty to its principles. The Ohio Council for Social Studies, the largest organization of history and social studies teachers in Ohio, strongly supports the passage of this transformational bill.

The wording of The Civics Secures Democracy Act describes the following:

  • Grants to states ($585 million per year for five years) to support American civic and historical education. States that receive grants must use at least 95% of the funds to provide subgrants to school districts to help local education agencies implement programs to improve the outcomes of elementary and middle school students in the fields of civics and American history.
  • Support to qualified nonprofit organizations ($200 million per year for five years), through competitive grants, to help these organizations develop or expand access to civic education programs, teaching and other educational programs to improve student knowledge and achievement in civics and American history. elementary schools and secondary schools.
  • Resources for higher education institutions ($150 million per year for five years), on a competitive basis, to help these institutions develop and implement training programs for elementary and secondary school teachers in teaching methods. student engagement in American civics and history.
  • CSDA funding and grants would prioritize proposals and programs that focus on traditionally underserved populations.

How would passing the Civics Secures Democracy Act impact Ohio K-12 students? The possibilities for building historical appreciation, cultural awareness, and civic pride in Buckeye State are endless. There could be trips to various museums and historic destinations in Ohio: Campus Martius in historic Marietta, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Museum in Cincinnati, the Air Force Museum in Fairborn, the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum, the Toledo Museum of Art, the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks (in the process of becoming a World Heritage Site) or the Sojourner Truth Project, under construction in Akron.

Fifth graders from Madison Elementary in Middletown, listen to their guide as they tour the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, a slave compound, the focal point of the Freedom Center.  The one-room structure was originally located in Mason County, Ky., and was used by slave trader John W. Anderson to house purchased slaves before taking them to auction in Natchez, Ky. the Mississippi.  The Freedom Center opened in downtown Cincinnati in 2004. December 5, 2011

The students’ sense of Buckeye Pride would grow with field studies of the homes and museums of Ohio’s great inventors: the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, Granville Woods, and Charles Kettering.

Students would have the opportunity to study cases and visit the homes or museums of any of the seven Ohio-born presidents. There would be funding for more students to participate in History Day, sponsored by Ohio History Connections. Additionally, opportunities to learn the stories of Ohio’s courts and the men and women who shaped them followed with a field trip to the Supreme Court of Ohio.

Additionally, students would have learning opportunities in the important area of ​​civic participation and economics by participating in Ohio Center for Law-Related Education programs, such as Ohio Mock Trial, Project Citizen, We the People and Youth for Justice and the Federal Reserve, providing exceptional field visits to their Cleveland office and Cincinnati branch.

The Civics Secures Democracy Act would provide K-12 students in Ohio and students across the country with unique learning opportunities in civics and history with the goal of developing them into informed and engaged participants. in our democratic republic.

For more information on this bill, please visit the following website: https://civxnow.org/our-work/federal/. The Ohio Council for Social Studies encourages all Ohioans to contact their U.S. Representatives and Senators to support the Civics Secures Democracy Act.

James F. O’Connor is a professor of social studies at Princeton High School and president of the Ohio Council for the Social Studies.

James F. O'Connor

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