History in the Present: The Pandemic and Civic Learning
Since the early days of the United States, the country’s leaders have understood that the success of our democratic republic depends on a knowledgeable electorate of citizens who are informed about contemporary issues and who understand how government works. The current pandemic comes at a time when that standard is being threatened by deep partisan divisions, disagreements about the role of federal and state government in citizens’ daily lives, and distrust of political leadership.
In the past, when the country faced a crisis of such broad magnitude—the Great Depression, World War II—political leaders were able to use the moment to unify the nation and renew faith in America’s civic structures. Despite our current divisions—already on display as the country debates reopening—can the pandemic and the response to it point to new ways of bringing people together to work for a common good? If so, how can we realize this promise, now and in the future? In particular, what role can a comprehensive civics education, balancing civic knowledge and civic engagement, play in engaging K-12 students from all backgrounds in a renewed commitment to American civic life and its democratic principles?
Four national leaders from across the United States will discuss the possibility of using this unique moment in American history to forge a new future for the nation and help young people acquire and learn to use the skills, knowledge and attitudes that will prepare them to be competent and responsible citizens throughout their lives.
This unique program will help launch the Commonwealth Club’s new focus on civics education.
1 p.m. PDT/4 p.m. EDT program