Teaching Secondary School Social Studies

By James F. High | Go to book overview

10
Teaching civic competence

Supposing that we should even be obliged to take democracy with all the disadvantages that were ever annexed to it, and that no remedy could be discovered for any of its defects, it would still be greatly preferable to the exclusive systems of other forms.

WILLIAM GODWIN, 1793


1. Our Democratic Heritage

In this day of nearly universal high school attendance, the upper grades in high school seem the most appropriate place for the student to examine United States political history and the dynamics of democratic government. For many, about two-thirds, it may be the last chance to study in an organized way the democratic heritage of their country. In the lower grades the ordinary student has come in contact with at least some phases of United States and world history, with some practice in applying the principles of democratic citizenship in a classroom setting. Here, in secondary school, a year or so before the young citizen will be a member of society unaided by the guiding hand of the public school, he should make a review of those responsibilities which he will legally face at age twenty-one--only two or three years after he graduates from high school.* To others, who will go on to college, it offers a preliminary chance to explore the processes of American government which can be expanded and clarified further during the baccalaureate years.

Fundamental American liberties can be analyzed as a complex arrangement of political institutions and rights, along with their growth. It is obvious that no set of rules or constitutional language can really establish a democracy, but without them and especially without knowing about them, it is impossible to have anything approaching social,

____________________
*
In Georgia and Kentucky, the voting age is eighteen. In Alaska it is nineteen. In Hawaii it is twenty.

-253-

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