Questions We Hold

At the 2019 Summer Institute, we closed our first day together sharing a question we are holding about 21st century civic education.

Here is our list of 20 questions. What are yours?

  1. How do we teach for tension?
    • How do we teach empowerment AND reverence and humility?
    • What are ways US systems have erred and continue to require improvement? And what has worked really well? What are the stories and case studies in which American systems have succeeded in achieving justice?
    • How do we challenge our students to formulate and defend a stance with reasoning and evidence but also to have the courage and skills to challenge their own view?
    • How do we weigh why things matter to us today, while zooming back to 1776 and understanding the why of what mattered to writers of the Declaration and the Constitution? How do we consider the logic and social/emotional journey of those who founded the country?
  2. How do we teach values and inculcate values that are sometimes inconsistent or at odds with values that our schools are based on.
  3. How do we teach in this political moment? What does today’s environment say about institutions and about the importance of civility in society? What norms are relevant today?
  4. How do we teach for empathy? Thinking about the biologist Frans de Waal who wrote about primates and their presentation of empathy, is empathy something we all have in us that just has to be teased out if we do it in the right way?
  5. What is the role of the civics educator? Is it to be neutral? Is there a time when the civic educator must evoke a moral imperative? Is there ever a moral obligation to not be civil?
  6. In our unique environments, how do we ensure we are mindful of all faith traditions including atheism and agnosticism? How can a civic educators ensure he/she knows and understands the sacred scriptures, values, culture, and tradition of all students and how those elements can operate in concert with America’s founding documents? At Civic Spirit Day, we could be human and we could sojourn together. How do we let that work inform all that we do?
  7. How can we as educators at faith-based institutions use faiths to contribute to civic discourse. What unique role do we play, as compared to secular public or private schools?
  8. How do we as educators balance between civics curriculum that have worked in the past and trying something completely new, particularly as we aim to focus on creating organic and student-centered experiences.
  9. What is the intersection between the foundation of American government and the histories and narratives of particular peoples?
  10. How do we help students understand that their voice, their actions, their participation in civic life matters?
  11. How can educators be prepared to handle politically-charged arguments in the classroom?
  12. How do we reconcile the age-old question of teaching social studies: content or skills. History courses offer clearer guidelines, but civics is more complicated — how do we know we are on the right track?
  13. How do we stay above the fray? Is the job of a civic educator to be just a moderator? Should we help students reach conclusions?
  14. How do make sure that students feel comfortable owning and sharing their perspectives and stories, no matter what they represent?
  15. How do we connect and relate civics to students’ current personal lives and their future?
  16. How we teach, promote, and model curiosity?
  17. How do help students find commonality? How do we nurture a rejection of first-impression assumptions? How do we teach comfort with difference of opinion?
  18. Many students experience frustration with their status in life; how do we help students feel a sense of agency?
  19. How do we teach perspective? How we help a human being walk around in someone else’s skin for a little while?
  20. Are we asking the right question? Some flaws of America have been there from the beginning — how does improvement really happen?
Summer Institute 2019