Magazine article Social Studies Review

E Pluribus Unum

Magazine article Social Studies Review

E Pluribus Unum

Article excerpt

Out of many, one. This phrase is the motto carried by the American Eagle, referring to the union between the states and federal government. In what ways can we as educators use this motto to solve some significant civic education issues? How can we as "one" work to close what has been described as a civic achievement gap (Levinson, 2009) How might we form a "union" for the purpose of tackling the lack of quality teaching of civic education? One method for doing this is to share resources we know to be useful in order to enhance learning experiences for our students. By living the motto of our nation as professionals, we can collaborate and coordinate our efforts to improve our teaching practice and in turn offer quality civic units of study for all students.

Civic education in our nation is suffering a crisis detrimental to the core of our democracy; times of crisis call for multiple sources of support. Several groups are rallying for the cause, taking bold steps to help nurture the kinds of understandings necessary for teachers to help our students gain competencies and meet the Goals of Democratic Understanding and Civic Values as aligned in the California History Social Science Framework. More importantly the goal is for students to exemplify these understandings in their own lives as productive citizens.

Realizing that it will take more than the efforts of educators alone to solve the issues surrounding the immediate and future implications of a lack of understanding of our civic knowledge, skills, attitudes and participation (Macedo 2005), several different organizations have developed programs and resources to support educators. Here we are: E Pluribus Unum at work! Below I have outlined some of the resources teachers will find helpful as they strive to develop strong programs in civic education.

Resources

Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools: http://civicmissionofschools.org/site/campaign/educating.html

The campaign is a coalition of organizations committed to improving the quality and quantity of civic learning in American schools. The work of the Campaign is based on what has been established as Six Promising Approaches to Civic Learning. These Promising Practices are considered to be the guiding light that provides the focus of our work and support in the field of civic education. The website for the Campaign offers resources and strategies, a Community Exchange, "Take Action" ideas with links provided to assist with connections. While this Campaign has focused mainly at a policy level, the website includes Resources and Strategies.

Formal instruction in government, history, law and democracy. The report specifically urges dynamic and interactive teaching methods rather than "teaching by rote," since drier methods may alienate students from politics.

Guided discussion of current local, national, and international issues and events. The report urges discussion of issues students find personally relevant, conducted in a way that encourages multiple points of view.

Active learning experiences where students perform community service and/or service-learning. The report urges giving students a role in choosing and designing volunteer activities; articulating explicit civic outcomes; linking service to auricular study; and providing opportunities and vehicles for critical reflection. These recommendations are in keeping with "best practice" principles in service-learning.

Co-curricular activities to foster engagement with schools and communities.

The report does not specify favored co-curricular activities . Rather, it acknowledges that learning takes place within and beyond school walls, and it encourages extracurricular efforts to strengthen young peoples' involvement in an array of social and civic institutions.

Student participation in school governance. The report urges students to take an active role in classroom and school governance matters as a means for practicing civic participation skills. …

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