An initiative of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics (EJSCE) at Harvard University, the Democratic Knowledge Project (DKP) is part of a consortium of ethics and civic education initiatives at Harvard called the Design Studio at the EJSCE. The Design Studio is led by Dr. Meira Levinson, faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and EJSCE faculty committee member. The DKP offers curriculum development resources, professional development workshops for educators, and assessment tools and resources—all in support of education for constitutional democracy.
Our vision is that a supermajority of the population will believe democracy is essential and feel confident in having the knowledge, skills and capacities they need to be informed and capable members of public life. We believe the place to start is in schools.
We provide high quality resources for educators and students to support the development of authentic, informed, and skilled civic participants. The MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently recognized the DKP’s 8th grade civics curriculum as one of the strongest comprehensive curricular materials available for teaching civics. The curriculum was designed to be in alignment with the MA standards for the 2018 History and Social Science Framework and MA legislation requiring student-led civics projects.
What are the DKP's Approaches and Beliefs?
We believe students have the capacity to engage in deeper civic learning, in which students develop a civic identity by integrating their understanding of their personal identity and values, knowledge about our constitutional democracy, and the skills and roles necessary for effective civic participation. We believe that a project-based learning pedagogical approach encourages curiosity, critical thinking, and readiness to participate in one's community. Our curricular resources are designed to reflect these beliefs.
We study teachers' and students' experiences with our curriculum on an ongoing basis in order to support continuous improvement.
How do DKP Curricular Resources Address Themes like Identity, Race, Racism, Diverse Perspectives, and Patriotism?
The DKP curricular resources are aligned with Guiding Principle 2 in the MA History and Social Science Framework, which states " An effective history and social studies education incorporates diverse perspectives and acknowledges that perceptions of events are affected by race, ethnicity, culture, religion, education, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, and personal experience." Our resources offer a diversity of perspectives, reflecting the diversity of the United States. At the DKP, we believe that awareness of one's identity and values is a cornerstone to understanding one's civic identity, which we seek to develop and encourage in our students. We believe beginning with an exploration of self is an engaging way to launch a civics course of study. Research supports that students learn best when they develop a self-understanding and identity connected to the roles relevant to what they are learning about: in our 8th grade course, this means understanding their identity and values can be linked to civic roles they may take on in their lives.
We ask parents and educators to examine our curricular resources directly to assess the value of our approaches to civics and history education. We believe that the history of enslavement, issues of race and racism, foundational moments in our country's history, and themes like patriotism are all necessary in any complete history and/or civics curriculum. The DKP seeks to support inquiry, understanding, and reasonable disagreement across these themes.
We ask young people to investigate both the good and the bad in our shared history and in our constitutional democracy. The overall goal is for students to embrace the shared project of our democracy and to be able to work well with others, including across differences of perspective, to embrace their identities as civic participants.
What Other Resources Are Available?
The MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has released an FAQ document related to Race, Racism and Culturally Responsive Teaching in History and Social Science in Massachusetts. This document includes a link to download a Quick Reference Guide to Guiding Principle 2: https://www.doe.mass.edu/frameworks/hss/faq.pdf
Adaptation: If you have adapted our curricular materials in minor ways—changing wording, omitting or rearranging questions, etc.—please leave the DKP logo in place. If you are doing more significant adaptations (so that it feels more like you’re incorporating portions of the DKP materials into your own work, rather than just reshaping the DKP materials), please include language that signals this by referencing the following: This was adapted from material developed by the Democratic Knowledge Project, an initiative of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.
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