Danielle Allen, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, has long studied what citizens need in order to succeed in democracy and how our social studies and civics education have impacted democracy.
In a recent episode of the Harvard EdCast, Allen discussed how the nation got where it is today and what it will take to reinvest in education for democracy.
“We have really disinvested in civic education and social studies. You can see that now in the comparison that we currently spend $54 per year per kid of federal dollars on STEM education and only five cents per year per kid on civics,” Allen said. “We have really ceased to lay the foundation in K–12 for young people to understand democracy, be motivated to participate in it, to have the skills and tools they need to participate effectively, and as a result, enjoy participation.”
In the episode, Allen discussed how to find ways to tell “an integrated version of U.S. history that is simultaneously honest about the crimes and wrongs of the past, but without falling into cynicism.”
To raise engaged citizens, she also suggested bringing democratic practices of reason-giving into the life of a family. “There are lots of lessons inside a family that can feed in to help the understanding of democratic practice,” Allen said.