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Educating for American Democracy

Seminar Leader:
Rogers M. Smith


Many fear today that American democracy is in serious jeopardy due to severe political polarization, a lack of understanding of different perspectives and experiences, and a lack of civic knowledge and skills for contributing to effective democratic self-governance. This seminar drew on the seven themes of inquiry identified by the NEH-funded project Educating for American Democracy to address this lack of knowledge and will to find common ground. The themes were: civic participation; our changing American landscapes; the idea of “We, the People”; the Constitution and new form of government of the United States; processes of institutional and social transformation; the place of the American people in the world; and contemporary debates and possibilities we Americans face today. Units created in this course are resources for all other teachers seeking to strengthen American civic education.

Unit TitleAuthor


Engaging Philadelphia’s Ward System: How democratic is our system?

Charlie McGeehan
Keywords: authentic assessment, civics, democracy, Government, Inquiry, interview, local politics

How Coal Changed Philadelphia: 1820-1865

William McGeehan
Keywords: antebellum Philadelphia, Coal, industrialization, ironworking, locomotives, mineral energy, nativism, poverty, social reform, steamships, textile mills, water pollution, whiteness

Political Parties: Vehicles or Disruptors of American Democracy?

Alexander de Arana
Keywords: Democrats, interest groups, multiparty system, Political parties, Republicans, third parties, two-party system

“There Must Come A Change”: School-Based Black Educational Activism in Philadelphia

Danina M. Garcia-Fuller
Keywords: 1967 Walkout, African American History, Literary Societies, rhetoric, School District History

Impacts of Social Media on Democracy

Timothy Woods
Keywords: Big Tech, democracy, digital literacy, disinformation, misinformation, social media

Exploring Civic Engagement through Early Childhood Special Education

Alissa Capponi
Keywords: autistic support, community engagement, life skills, special education, vocational skills

Who Owns The Land?: The Sparrow’s Principle and Anti-Gentrification in Philadelphia

Tyriese James Holloway
Keywords: gentrification, Marita’s Bargain

Untangling Hair Discrimination

Lisa Yuk Kuen Yau
Keywords: CROWN act, Gender Bias, Hair, hair discrimination, hair laws, hairstyles, Native American boarding school, queue, race bias, tignon

Educating for Democracy TIP Seminar 2022: The 14th Amendment And Persons With Disabilities, What Students Should Know

Peggy Marie Savage
Keywords: Disabilities; Fourteenth Amendment; equal protection; Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; Americans with Disabilities Act; IEP; LRE