This morning’s Civic Learning Week blogpost comes to us from FJCC/LFI Civics Instructional Specialist Kimberly Garton. It’s a consideration of new perspectives, and we hope you find it helpful.

Recently I read a piece of advice that encouraged individuals to start saying “thank you” instead of “sorry”.  While obviously there are situations where an apology is necessary, somewhere along the line, we became a society that constantly apologies and the phrase lost its value.  So, the idea is, instead of “sorry I am late” to swap it with “thank you for waiting for me”.  The psychology behind the change in behavior says that when we start saying thank you more often, we become more confident, improve our self-worth, stop judging ourselves harshly, and it overall helps us see the good in the world around us.  A simple change from a negative connotation to a more positive outlook can certainly do wonders. 

In the world of education, especially civics education, the negativity can be overwhelming.  Recently for teachers in Florida, it has been a constant bombardment of negativity towards education and educators.  Whether accurate or not, the messaging has tended to focus on limitations placed on teachers and schools: don’t read these books, don’t teach these topics, don’t say these phrases, don’t use these resources.  As educators, we often choose frustration and feel “sorry” for content or pedagogy we perceive to have lost the ability to engage with.  So instead, this Civic Learning Week, let’s try some “thanks”:

  • Thank you for the opportunity to teach about the brilliant young individuals who founded this country.  Individuals who read, debated, compromised, and fought to build any incredibly durable system of government.
  • Thank you for the opportunity to teach about the language and components of the U.S. Constitution, a framework for government that also protects sacred rights and liberties.
  • Thank you for the opportunity to teach about individuals from all walks of life and their courageous struggles and endeavors to fulfill the promise of democracy and bring us closer to “a more perfect union”.
  • Thank you for the opportunity to teach about ways citizens can and must be involved with their government, and the power and responsibility behind the phrase “We the People”.
  • Thank you for the opportunity to teach the meaning and importance of rule of law and due process in the United States legal system.
  • Thank you for the opportunity to teach about world affairs and U.S. foreign policy methods available for interacting with the international community.
  • Thank you for the opportunity to teach patriotism through our country’s aspirations.  In the words of Fredrick Douglass “I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes and at whatever cost.”
  • Thank you for the opportunity to teach using a vast number of primary sources that allow for deeper understanding, greater student connections to past events, and as the National Archives puts it, “History in the Raw”.
  • Thank you for the opportunity to teach students how to “develop an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping on individual freedoms, and examine what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purpose of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society and for nurturing and protecting democratic values and institutions.” (Florida State Statute 1003.42-Required Instruction)

Many Framers had concerns about the practicality of the newly established government.  But in the words of Thomas Jefferson, “education would facilitate the people’s good sense on which we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty”.  The ability to teach or be a part of civics education in any way is truly a gift and a blessing.  Together, we ensure this “great experiment” continues and each generation is equipped with civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions to be citizens capable of participating in civic life.          

So I encourage you to take this Civic Learning Week and reenergize your passion.  Re-read your standards, benchmarks, and state statutes and remind yourself of all of the amazing content and skills you get to teach and share.  Listen to a new podcast, attend a professional development opportunity, pick up a book, or engage your colleagues in a conversation about their favorite civics topic.  Take a moment to see the good in the world of teaching civics and government.

And thank you for all that you do.