Richard Kyte: Civic education is too important to ignore | Chroniclers

The second goal is to teach American history in a way that is neither idealized nor cynical. The story should provide us with a cohesive narrative, not just a collection of numbers, dates, and events. A shared history serves to guide us into the future. This does not exclude competing interpretations of controversial events; it provides the context within with competing interpretations that can unfold.

The third goal is to teach democratic skills, including critical thinking, argumentative writing, and debate. People who know how to reason tend to use their words. Those who do not know how to reason turn to force. Our system of government depends on a critical mass of people willing to use words to advance their separate interests in the context of the common good.

Finally, and most importantly, we must teach a common set of civic virtues. I would advocate for truthfulness, courage, temperance, stewardship and fairness. For too long we have been content to teach a mishmash of values. But the virtues and values ​​are very distinct. Values ​​are just beliefs we have about what is important; virtues are established dispositions acquired through practice. Shared virtues are the basis of a common culture.

The first three goals can be achieved by setting standards for graduation. The end goal, however, is not something that schools can accomplish on their own. It requires all of us, first to mold the virtues we want our children to adopt, and then to provide them with repeated opportunities to practice them.


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