The Educating for American Democracy Roadmap

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
Civics education plays an important role in equipping “we the people” to work toward a “more perfect union.” To support the civic mission of schools, more than 300 educators and scholars from across ideological and geographic boundaries worked for 17 months to create a framework for powerful civics and history instruction in K-12 schools. The Educating for American Democracy (EAD) Roadmap and Report provides guidance about what and how to teach integrated K-12 history and civics for today’s learners — at a time when our country needs it the most.

The EAD Roadmap provides support to districts to implement the Illinois K-12 Social Science standards and civics course requirements with resources, a pedagogy guide, and vertically-aligned themes for inquiry that address today’s curricular design challenges.

The EAD Roadmap
is hosting a K-12 Student Design Challenge Contest that requires students to grapple with complex questions in civics and history — those that most would agree do not have a clear or right answer. Students will create original artwork to share their ideas for a chance to win a cash prize and have their original artwork featured on the Educating for American Democracy website. For details, visit the contest webpage.

The Illinois Civics Hub (ICH) at the DuPage Regional Office of Education recently hosted a webinar to introduce the roadmap and how it fits into the national landscape around civics and how the roadmap and pedagogy guide can enhance implementation of the Illinois civics course requirements for grades 6-8 and 9-12. A recording of the webinar can be found on the Illinois Civics Hub Webinar Archive. ICH will be hosting a series of free webinars this summer with our Civic Learning Providers to address the thematic questions embedded throughout the resource.

We asked some of our Illinois Civics Instructional Coaches what they found most compelling and instructive about the EAD Roadmap and report. Perhaps their reflections will give you a place to start.

Alia Bluemlein: “One of my favorite components of the EAD Roadmap is the key concept of exploring the relationships between hard histories and contemporary debates, which is followed up with the historical driving question: How can your learning of U.S. history suggest strategies for how to address our shared contemporary problems? One of my continued goals as an educator is to make things relevant for my students and throughout the curriculum and our studies to really highlight why we should care. This is rooting what we study with an understanding that it can inform us with regards to what’s going on today. This is also a great springboard for diving into civics with students.”
Region: Boone, Northern Cook, Lake, McHenry, & Winnebago Counties

Christopher Johnson: “The U.S. Constitution is the owner's manual for the entire nation and should be at the center of any civics-related curriculum in the United States. The tools and resources included in the EAD Roadmap will help 21st century civics educators develop meaningful instruction on the U.S. Constitution, its formation, and its relevance to the nation today. It will help us get away from the traditional memorization of the text of the document and the old test that used to go along with this task. Instead, it will help guide educators in developing a meaningful curriculum that helps students understand the significance of the U.S. Constitution and the core values of American democracy.”
Region: Adams, Brown, Cass, Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, Knox, McDonough, Mercer, Morgan, Pike, Schuyler, Scott & Warren Counties

Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz: “I really appreciate Design Principle 4, that calls on teaching to be rooted in inquiry, and inquiry specifically around Theme 7, A People with Contemporary Debates and Possibilities. I love how it integrates history and civics with asking teachers and students to investigate ‘how historical narratives shape current political arguments,’ and ‘how the American people continue to renew or remake themselves in pursuing fulfillment of the promise of constitutional democracy.’ I think this illustrates perfectly the value of bringing history and civics into conversation, giving students additional historical evidence and context for discussion of current events.”
Region: Clark, Clay, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Edwards, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jasper, Lawrence, Massac, Moultrie, Pope, Richland, Saline, Shelby, Wabash, Wayne & White Counties

Matthew Wood: “I greatly appreciate the EAD Roadmap’s Theme #5: Institutional and Social Transformation - A Series of Refoundings? In our modern period of storm and strife over how to explain our complicated past, this theme really encapsulates how our transformation from a slave-owning agrarian society evolved into our modern world and how each change out of that origin story brought a renewed sense of what it means to be an American. Particularly strong is the Roadmap’s identification of key concepts of each theme as well as the very helpful ‘driving questions’ section that can inspire educators like me to see where these themes can go.”
Region: Central Cook, DeKalb, DuPage & Kane Counties

How do you think the Educating for American Democracy Roadmap can help prepare students with the knowledge, skills and dispositions for civic life? Please comment below. Together, we can prepare all students for college, career and civic life.

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