NEH and Department of Education award $650,000 to Educating for American Democracy, a collaborative project to create a roadmap for excellence in civic education

Led by iCivics, Arizona State University, Harvard University, and Tufts University, the effort will bring together more than 100 experts in civics, history, education, and political science to outline a strategy for teaching American Democracy in the 21st century.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov 1, 2019) — The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, has awarded a $650,000 cooperative agreement to a collaborative of experts who will work together to design a roadmap to prepare K-12 students for America’s constitutional democracy.

Educating for American Democracy: A Roadmap for Excellence in History and Civics Education for All Learners will bring together more than 100 leading academics and practitioners in education, civics, history, and political science to set out a foundation for understanding and teaching American history and civics. And it will issue a roadmap that will outline high-priority civics content areas and make clear and actionable recommendations for integrating the teaching of civics and history at every grade level, along with best practices and implementation strategies that teachers, schools, districts and states can use to shape their instructional programs. 

The roadmap will develop the foundation from which to prepare all students to understand the value of America’s constitutional democracy as well as its past failures and present challenges. Our goal is to design a program that will secure a strong commitment to and sense of ownership of that democracy in K-12 students.

Educating for American Democracy is a cross-partisan effort led by the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, the School of Civic & Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University, Tufts University’s Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement and Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, and iCivics — the country’s largest civic education provider. 

The group has formed a Steering Committee, as well as task forces in History, Political Science, and Pedagogy that will hold two convenings over the next year — one at Louisiana State University and one at Arizona State University. It will then issue its report, which will be authored by Danielle Allen from Harvard University, Paul Carrese from ASU, Louise Dube from iCivics, and Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg and Peter Levine from Tufts University, prior to a National Forum on September 2020 in Washington, DC, which will be co-hosted by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History and the National Archives and Records Administration Foundation. 

“As the United States looks toward our 250th anniversary as a nation in 2026, it is critical that our K-12 educational system teaches the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and the democratic principles on which the country was founded,” said NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede. “The National Endowment for the Humanities is pleased to be working with Educating for American Democracy to identify ways to improve the teaching and learning of American history and government so that all students gain an appreciation of the workings of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.” 

The Educating for American Democracy project responds to an NEH-Education Department call for proposals for a fifteen-month project that would highlight innovative approaches, learning strategies, and professional development practices in K-12 civics education, with an emphasis on activities and programs that benefit low-income and underserved populations.

Educating for American Democracy will rely on the expertise of the teams at ASU, Harvard, and Tufts and will utilize iCivics’ community of more than 100,000 teachers, as well as partner communities for field testing to ensure that the Roadmap is a practical and useful document in the classroom. It will draw upon the collective network of CivXNow, a coalition of 113 organizations and foundations dedicated to improving civic education in order to disseminate the curriculum. 

Educating for American Democracy is an effort to provide guidance for integrating history and civics so that today’s learners form a strong connection to our constitutional democracy—and take ownership of it,” said Louise Dubé, the executive director of iCivics, which was founded by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2009. “We are very thankful that this cooperative agreement with NEH and the Department of Education will give our team of experts, academics, and practitioners the opportunity to design a trans-partisan roadmap for excellence in history and civics education.”

The Educating for American Democracy cooperative agreement is funded through a partnership between NEH’s Division of Education Programs and the U.S. Department of Education’s American History and Civics Education-National Activities program and is part of NEH’s newly announced “More Perfect Union” initiative focused on the upcoming 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States.

“Our republic is at a crossroads, facing deep partisan and philosophical polarization, while understanding of and trust in America’s democratic institutions are dangerously low – especially among younger citizens.  Our interdisciplinary and balanced team of scholars, teachers, and civic educators believes that the relative neglect of civics education in the past half-century is a major root cause of much civic and political dysfunction,” ASU’s Paul Carrese said. “We’re grateful to the NEH and Department of Education for marshaling the resources and attention needed to spur real reform.”  

National Endowment for the Humanities: Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.

The School of Civic & Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University blends a liberal arts education with civic education to prepare 21st century leaders for American and international affairs, balancing study of classic ideas with outside-the-classroom learning experiences.  The School also provides civic education programs such as a podcast (Keeping It Civil), the Arizona Constitution Project, and the Civic Discourse Project – a national-caliber speakers program partnering with Arizona PBS to provide a space for civil discourse on pressing issues.  https://scetl.asu.edu/

The Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University seeks to strengthen teaching and research about pressing ethical issues; to foster sound norms of ethical reasoning and civic discussion; and to share the work of our community in the public interest. The Center stands at the core of a well-established movement giving ethics a prominent place in the curriculum and on research agendas at Harvard and throughout the world. The Center’s Democratic Knowledge Project is a K-16 civic education provider that seeks to identify and disseminate the bodies of knowledge, capacities, and skills that democratic citizens need in order to build and sustain healthy, thriving democracies.

Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life and Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement: The only university-wide college of its kind, the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University studies and promotes the civic and political engagement of young people at Tufts University, in our communities, and in our democracy. Peter Levine serves as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. Tisch College’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), directed by Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, is a premier research center on young people’s civic education and engagement in the United States, especially those who are marginalized or disadvantaged in political life. CIRCLE’s scholarly research informs policy and practice for healthier youth development and a better democracy. https://tischcollege.tufts.edu/iCivics: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor founded iCivics in 2009 to transform the field through innovative, free educational video games and lessons that teach students to be knowledgeable, curious, and engaged in civic life. Today, iCivics is the nation’s largest provider of civic education curriculum, with our resources used by over 108,000 educators and more than 6.7 million students each year nationwide. Visit www.icivics.org to learn more

About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.
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