Friday, January 21, 2011

What Can Schools Do to Promote Civil Dialogue?

From a post on Rick Hess straight up by Meira Levinson called What Can Schools Do to Promote Civil Dialogue?:

She asked the question:

"What role might--or must--schools play in helping young people develop and habitually enact these capacities? What would it take for kids to learn how to integrate empathy and discernment while engaging in meaningful, often partisan, civil political discourse and action?"

I think it's a really great question. Her answer was to teach more civics, and to teach it better. Absolutely. As a student fascinated by politics, it wasn't until 12th grade that I really took a course dedicated to civics. However, this is also a problem with how the school system is set up. We teach American History in up to 8 of our 12 grades. We need to move beyond calling a class American History and then expecting civics and debate to be a part of the curriculum. I think this comes down to the same issues that we grapple with in curriculum design all the time, that of do we teach content or do we teach concepts. I would say that civics tends to be a more concept based. However, many of our state standards are content based, and it's a lot easy to assess content than it is to assess concepts. And as education has shifted towards a more research and scientific basis for what is taught, we are moving away from what is hard to assess.

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