U.S. history

Social Studies Teachers Call for Better Classes to Improve Discourse About American Democracy

Under the new plan, students would do a deeper dive, answering questions like: What is a fair society? How do we ensure liberty and justice for all? Why is the Bill of Rights so important? 

NBC Universal, Inc.

A group of educators believes that the solution to the divided discourse adults are having in the U.S., particularly following the insurrection at the Capitol and the wave of misinformation online, starts in schools. 

Earlier this month, hundreds of teachers from around the country presented a plan called “Educating for American Democracy.” 

Their theory is that students need to learn the facts about American democracy, but they also need a deeper understanding of it. Better social studies classes could help do just that.  

Jessica Park is a 7th grade U.S. History teacher at Liberty Middle School in Fairfax County.  She said for years, history classes have been about the basics, like places and dates.

"I do believe that that is a lack of proper civic and history education,” Park said. “The fact that they’re memorizing facts, it really doesn’t teach them the subjects at all, it’s teaching them how to take a test."

Before, students might memorize things like where the constitution was written, what the three branches of government are and when Shay’s Rebellion took place. 

Under the new plan, they would learn those facts, but do a deeper dive, answering questions like: What is a fair society? How do we ensure liberty and justice for all? Why is the Bill of Rights so important? 

Patrick Frias is a father from Clarksburg who said that as a kid, his teachers only scratched the surface. 

"I don’t really think we asked those types of questions,” Frias said. 

His son Jacob is in middle school and said his history class goes more in depth in comparison to his father’s.  

“When we’re writing essays, those are more deep thinking types of questions, so I like doing the essays more,” Jacob said. 

The teachers behind the new plan said they hoped to roll it out over the next decade, and would also want to see more funding for history classes that could change the youth’s conversations about democracy.

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