Preparing Responsible Citizens
Operating in Tension
An educated, enlightened, and informed population is one of the surest ways of promoting the health of a democracy.Nelson Mandela
- The United States Constitution
- The Bill of Rights
- Voting rights and responsibilities
- Peaceful protest
- Neela Vaswani and Silas House's Same Sun Here, a fictional account of peaceful protest of mountaintop removal at Kentucky's state capitol.
- The trail of John Peter Zenger trial and the First Amendment
- Protestant Reformation
- Spanish Inquisition and freedom of religion
- Westward Expansion
- Women's rights
- Child labor
- Indigenous history
- John Greene's video series "Crash Course in Navigating Digital Information"
- Concepts of justice, quality, liberty, and citizenship in mid-19th to mid-20th century American history
- Discussion of current events
- Reading and discussion of George Orwell's Animal Farm and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird
- The French Revolution and the Reign of Terror
- How far should you go to ensure your objectives?
- Post-World War I Germany and Weimar Republic
- Fragility of democracy
- Post-apartheid South Africa and post-genocide Rwanda
- Lessons on truth and reconciliation
- Role of, warnings about factions
- Federalist and anti-Federalist debate
- Henry David Thoreau and the role of civil disobedience
- Abraham Lincoln and appeals to the "better angels of our nature”
- Jon Meacham and the "soul of America"
- John Milton’s Areopagitica and freedom of speech and press
- Current events
- Founding documents
- Presidential leadership
- The Trail of Tears
- Separation of Powers
- Washington’s Farewell Address
Sample Class Exercises
What are the implications of this constitutional amendment?
Students randomly draw a constitutional amendment, research it, write about it, and then present "in character" as the amendment.
What is an issue you would like to see changed? Develop an essay in support of this change.
In this social change essay project, students focus on an issue they would like to see changed in an immediate/local, national, or international context to guide their research and essay. (Humanities 8)
Was the decision to use the atomic bomb to end the war against Japan the right decision?
Students must prepare for multiple outcomes or decisions (in order to demonstrate an understanding of multiple perspectives). This is a 2 v 2 public forum debate helping students to gain skills in understanding multiple outcomes, collaboration, and communication. (History 9)
How would you handle this national security issue?
Students assume the role of state actors to formulate responses to crises abroad, such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, interrogation policy on the Arabian peninsula, etc. These exercises are based on Model Diplomacy, an education outreach program from the Council on Foreign Relations intended to help students gain skills in making world-wise connections, collaboration, and communication. (History 10)
How do you know if you can trust the story you are hearing?
Students discuss whether you can accept the narrator's account of a story if there is no supporting evidence using texts such as The Odyssey. (English 9)
St. Andrew's-Sewanee School's Ethics Bowl team has appeared at and won the state Ethics Bowl championships two years in row. Ethics Bowl differs from a debate competition in that students are not assigned opposing views; rather, they defend whichever position they think is correct, provide each other with constructive criticism, and win by demonstrating that they have thought rigorously and systematically about the cases and engaged respectfully and supportively with all participants, promoting ethical awareness, critical thinking, civil discourse, civic engagement, and an appreciation for multiple points of view.
An Example Lesson
In a recent Grade Level Program for our 9th graders, students discussed Amanda Gorman's "The Hill We Climb". Questions included:
- What thoughts come to mind when you hear “The Hill We Climb”?
- How did this poem affect you? Select one or two lines that stood out and explain your choices.
- How do you think that poetry might help us think about American democracy?
- What is the significance of the poem’s title? What might the “hill” signify in our democracy? Why?
- What do you think is meant by the phrase “quiet isn’t always peace”? How would you restate this in your own words? Can you think of a time when things have been quiet but not peaceful?
- Gorman writes that “the norms and notions of what just is, isn’t always justice.” What do you think this line means? Do you agree? Why or why not?
- How does Gorman describe herself in the poem? Which of her own identities does she name? Why do you think she chooses to name these identities in this poem about democracy?
- How does Gorman describe what “being American” is or isn’t? Why do you think she describes it this way? What, if anything, might you change or add to the description.