THE 8TH GRADE CURRICULUM

ABOUT THE CURRICULUM

An initiative of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, the Democratic Knowledge Project Design Studio (DKP) is a studio for the creation of ethics and civics resources, at all educational levels: K-16, post-graduate, and lifelong learning. The studio supports faculty projects ranging from Embedded Ethics, which includes ethics modules in computer science courses, to Scientific Citizenship, which helps graduate students in the natural sciences learn how to participate in public affairs, to the DKP K-12 initiative, focused on curricular materials for Massachusetts schools.

Our 8th grade curriculum, "Civic Engagement in our Democracy" was originally co-created in collaboration with the History and Social Studies Department and 8th grade educators in the Cambridge Public Schools in 2019. We subsequently collaborated with over 38 educators in 15 Massachusetts districts (including Cambridge) in the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years to implement and provide input on revision of subsequent iterations of that curriculum.


Other important points about our approach to 8th grade civics:

In the twenty-first century, democracy refersto a politicalsystem in which legislative and chief executive decision-makers are elected by majority or plurality rule by eligible voters, with a presumption that the franchise approaches universal adult suffrage among legal citizens and that mechanisms are in place to protect ideological, religious, ethnic, and other demographic minorities. .... In traditions of American political thought, all these terms capture forms of rights-based representative government in which 1) elected government leadership is constrained by constitutionalism, the rule of law, the separation of powers, the free expression of the people, and the legal protection and moral affirmation of the rights of individuals; and 2) groups and parties that are not part of electoral majorities cannot easily be disenfranchised or suffer loss of rights. We do not naively claim that more democracy simply in the form of more participation willsolve our problems. We seek instead to achieve healthy connections between robust participation and political institutions worthy of participation.

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The Democratic Knowledge Project is an initiative of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.