A Roadmap for Educating for American Democracy

“a lady asked Dr. Franklin well Doctor what we got a republic or a monarchy—A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it. The lady here aluded [sic] to was Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia”

Diary Entry from James McHenry, September 18, 1787

The famous vignette above was captured by James McHenry, an Irish immigrant who served as an aide to both Washington and Lafayette during the American Revolution and as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention from Maryland. He recorded this exchange in his diary one day after the conclusion of the Convention. Franklin’s words are still relevant today as “we the people” strive “to keep” our constitutional republic.

Civic education plays an important role in “keeping” our republic and working towards a “more perfect union” as explained in the excerpt from the 2011 Guardian of Democracy: The Civic Mission of Schools report.

Self-government requires far more than voting in elections every four years. It requires citizens who are informed and thoughtful, participate in their communities, are involved in the political process, and possess moral and civic virtues. Generations of leaders, from America’s founders to the inventors of public education to elected leaders in the twentieth century, have understood that these qualities are not automatically transmitted to the next generation—they must be passed down through schools. Ultimately, schools are the guardians of democracy.

Guardian of Democracy (pg.6)


To support the civic mission of schools, over 300 educators and scholars from across ideological and geographic boundaries have been working for over 17 months to create a framework for powerful civics and history instruction in K-12 schools. The Educating for American Democracy Roadmap and report provides guidance about what and how to teach integrated K-12 history and civics for today’s learners at a time when our country needs it the most.

Educators across the nation are invited to register and attend the Educating for American Democracy National Forum on March 2, 2021, from 2-3:45 pm CT for the launch of the roadmap and report. The event will be moderated by Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor of PBS NewsHour, and feature a range of educators and project leads including:

  • Danielle Allen, Director, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University
  • Paul Carrese, Founding Director, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University
  • Louise Dubé, Executive Director, iCivics
  • Jane Kamensky. Trumbull Professor of American History & Pforzheimer Foundation Director, Harvard University & Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
  • Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Director, Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University
  • Peter Levine, Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Jonathan M. Tisch College at Tufts University
  • Tammy Waller, Director of K-12 Social Studies and World Languages, Arizona Department of Education

The Educating for American Democracy Roadmap will provide additional support to districts to implement the Illinois K-12 Social Science standards and civic course requirements with resources, strategies, and vertically aligned questions for inquiry that address curricular design challenges. Illinois Civics will be hosting a follow-up webinar to explicitly make these connections on Wednesday, April 28th from 3:30-4:30 CT. You can register for this and other professional development opportunities on the Illinois Civics Professional Development calendar.