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Teaching Democratic Citizenship When Democracy is at Risk

Wednesday, Jan 10, 2018 | 12:00pm

Co-sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute and the American Federation of Teachers.

In a letter to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson wrote:
Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them. … They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.

Today, 230 years after Jefferson composed these words, the United States finds itself in a crisis of democracy, in which the future of our liberties and our republican form of government hang in the balance. Almost daily, we see attacks against the rights of citizenship, especially on the right to vote, and against the rule of law, an independent judiciary and a free press. Demagogic attacks are regularly launched against “other” Americans—immigrants and refugees, people of color, Muslims and Jews, and LGBTQ people.

What role should American education play in responding to this crisis of democracy? How should we teach democratic citizenship in our schools and universities to ensure that the “whole mass of the people” can see that it is their interest to preserve the republican government established by the founders to sustain liberty and democracy? How can America’s educators ensure that their classrooms and lecture halls are places where students learn to recognize demagoguery, oppose bigotry and resist tyranny? Two of our nation’s leading public intellectuals, Harvard professor Danielle Allen and Yale professor Timothy Snyder joined AFT President Randi Weingarten to discuss these questions.

Speakers:

Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor, Harvard University; director, Harvard's Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics

Timothy Snyder, Housum Professor of History, Yale University; permanent fellow, Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, Austria; author, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of Teachers and Albert Shanker Institute