One hundred years have passed since DeTocqueville wrote the classic "Democracy in America," and the issues confronting a democracy are still at the heart of what is important for students to understand. In fact, today, with our diverse classrooms it is more important than ever to have an understanding of the struggle for democracy in America. The two questions guiding our inquiry are:
- How has democracy evolved throughout American history?
- What have been our democratic aspirations? To what degree have they been realized?
The goal of our project is to increase student achievement and engagement in the study of American history. We believe that through providing a powerful theme, and linking that theme to the best pedagogy and practice in history, we will achieve our goal.
This project will bring together 5th, 8th and 11th grade teachers (those responsible for teaching American history in California schools) to develop a shared understanding of democracy and develop an articulated series of lessons so that students will study a consistent theme when they learn American history. Teachers will, through the benefit of our partnerships with the University of California, work with some of the nations best historians and have access to primary source documents. Through this opportunity, which would be the envy of many history graduate students around the country, teachers will enrich and enliven the classroom.
Using Californias state standards and Oaklands standards that stress historical thinking, teachers will be creating, teaching, modeling, and reflecting on lessons that ask students to critically examine evidence, to consider multiple points of view, and to evaluate different interpretations. In short, students and teachers will be asked to think like historians and in this process students will be given the tools to build a future on which democracy rests.