Developing educated, informed, and engaged citizens.

Concept Map

Definition

Intentional discussion of emerging topics and topics of tension in our society emphasizing discourse with multiple points of view

Evidence

  • Student voice forum with administration follow-up
  • Curriculum maps
  • Course reading lists
  • Assessments
  • Letters to the editor from students about issues important to them

Examples

  • Discussing climate change and/or genetics in science classes
  • Discussing immigration and whether the U.S. should have an official language in World Language classes
  • Using various strategies to promote civic discourse including Four Corners, Philosophical Chairs, Structured Academic Controversies, and Socratic Seminars
  • Creating space for discourse on events that affect the local school community
  • Developing media literacy skills to understand how information is constructed and received by different audiences

Connections to Principles of "Lived Civics"

  • Topics should be relevant and resonate with students' lived experiences
  • Reflection on how individual student experiences and identities influences their perspectives
  • Offer opportunities and create safe spaces for controversial topics to be discussed
  • Informed action/service learning can build upon the discussions on issues that affect students
  • Being attuned to underrepresented perspectives in the classroom and supporting authentic engagement

Case Study

Wheaton Warrenville South High School prides itself on offering rich civic learning experiences to its students. In Social Studies courses, students routinely research and discuss international, national and local issues. The English curriculum is centered on argumentation and the practice of civil discourse. Formal debates and Socratic seminars are used by many teachers, as they have found these strategies useful for fostering empathy for diverse opinions. The use of cooperative groups has had a major impact in providing a meaningful structure for encouraging student voice within groups, while giving them a method for sharing their conclusions. This format is a schoolwide protocol and allows students to form opinions and debate issues such as the legalization of marijuana, requiring photo IDs for voting, and the challenges faced by large metropolitan areas like Chicago.

The most recent venture in promoting exemplary civic learning is the "Judge Gavel Program", where teachers are awarded for trying out new simulations, court cases, and other methods that foster discourse that emphasizes the sharing of multiple perspectives. Teachers who model these practices are awarded a special gavel that states "Wheaton Warrenville South Democracy School: Fostering Communities of Educated, Informed and Engaged Citizens." This message serves as a constant reminder of the importance of actively engaging students in discussion about their world.