On the Huffington Post website on December 4, 2013, in the article, “What’s Education for, Anyway?”, William E. White argues that we are misplacing our educational energies by relegating civics education to the bottom of the academic heap.
I could not agree more. White reminds us that the “primary purpose for public education in a republic is to develop and train qualified citizens”. Across the United States, schools, particularly in the elementary grades, are focusing so intently on literacy and math that they are giving extremely short shrift to social studies and civics in classroom learning. Many school districts don’t even require social studies at the elementary level. I am the Executive Director of Discovering Justice, a civics education nonprofit, housed in the Moakley U.S. Courthouse in Boston. We created a literacy-based social studies/civics curriculum, Children Discovering Justice, for students in grades 1-5. Aligned with the Common Core and utilizing the Guided Reading model of literacy instruction developed by Fountas and Pinnell, the curriculum teaches students about history, civil rights, the U.S. Constitution, and how our government and justice systems have responded to challenging times for nearly two hundred fifty years. Using literature as its foundation, the curriculum enables teachers to incorporate the lessons into their literacy blocks, thereby giving students literacy and social studies under one rubric. Students participating in Discovering Justice’s curriculum can cull a variety of benefits: civic knowledge, literacy, reasoned debate, critical thinking, effective listening/communication, problem solving, respect, tolerance, and responsibility to community, all vital to academic, social, and professional success in the 21st century. If we neglect to afford students the opportunity to explore social studies and civics, we will utterly fail in our mandate to create engaged citizens for the next generations. Discovering Justice not only provides curriculum in elementary schools, we bring elementary students to the Moakley Courthouse for mock trials and experiential learning. We bring civics to life for thousands of students a year, connecting classrooms and courtrooms.
If you are interested in bringing Discovering Justice to your school or community, please send an email to: email@example.com.