About the SVPDP Curriculum Elements
The Main Frame: Foundations of Democracy
The primary goal of the Foundations of Democracy curriculum is to promote civic competence and responsibility among the nation’s students. The curriculum fosters attainment of this goal by:
• Promoting an increased understanding of the institutions of American constitutional democracy and the fundamental principles and values upon which they are founded.
• Developing the skills needed by young people to become effective and responsible citizens.
• Increasing understanding and willingness to use democratic processes when making decisions and managing conflict, both in public and private life.
The Foundations curriculum is based on four concepts fundamental to an understanding of social and political life. These concepts are Authority, Privacy, Responsibility and Justice. The curriculum is interdisciplinary, drawing from, rather than focusing on, the teaching of specific disciplines such as political science, law, psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology and philosophy.
The Authority curriculum helps students:
• distinguish between authority and power
• examine different sources of authority
• use reasonable criteria for selecting people for positions of authority
• analyze the benefits and costs of authority
• evaluate, take and defend positions on the proper scope and limits of authority
The Justice curriculum helps students:
• understand and apply the basic principles of justice
• consider fair distribution of the benefits and burdens of society
• consider fair responses to remedy wrongs and injuries
• consider fair practices for gathering information and making decisions
• evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues of justice
The Responsibility curriculum helps students:
• understand the importance of responsibility
• analyze the benefits and costs of responsibility
• evaluate, take and defend positions on how conflicts among competing responsibilities should be resolved
• evaluate, take and defend positions on personal responsibility
The Privacy curriculum helps students:
• understand the importance of privacy
• analyze the benefits and costs of privacy
• evaluate, take and defend positions on the proper scope and limits of privacy
The Constitutional Principles: We the People, the Citizen and the Constitution
We the People, the Citizen and the Constitution curriculum deals with the philosophical and historical foundations of the American political system and its evolution to today. The design of the instructional materials including the innovative culminating activity, make this a successful classroom tool.
The lessons, critical thinking exercises, problem-solving activities and cooperative learning techniques help develop intellectual and participatory skills; while increasing students’ understanding of the institutions of American constitutional democracy. After studying the material, students prepare for the simulated congressional hearing.
The simulated congressional hearing is similar for all grade levels:
1. After students have studied the curriculum, divide the class into five groups (elementary level) or six groups (middle and high school level) to correspond to the number of units in the text
2. Include all students in the class
3. Assign each group a unit from the text
4. Distribute the appropriate hearing question to each group. These are included in the instructional packet that you received and will be reviewed by your trainer
5. Share with students that the hearing is similar to testifying as expert witnesses before a congressional committee
6. Assist students with the research tasks necessary to prepare for the hearing
7. Allow students to prepare and rehearse their opening statements
The procedures and preparation techniques will be fully discussed in the SVPDP training sessions. Both the site coordinator and the trainer will help teachers set up the hearings either for classroom execution or possibly a school event.
Community Involvement: Public Policy and Project Citizen
We the People, Project Citizen is a civic education curriculum that promotes competent and responsible participation in state and local government. It actively engages students in learning how to monitor and influence public policy and encourages civic participation among students, their parents, and members of the community.
As a class project, students work together to identify and study a public policy issue, eventually developing an action plan for implementing their policy. The final product is a portfolio displaying each group’s work.
In a culminating activity the class presents its portfolio in a simulated legislative hearing, demonstrating their knowledge and understanding of how public policy is formulated. Ideally, the presentation is made before the very policy makers who can implement and change public policy.
The text is a process oriented instructional guide. The accompanying teacher’s guide includes directions for leading the class through the process and developing a class portfolio. It also contains instructions and evaluation procedures for conducting a simulated legislative hearing.
The procedures and preparation techniques will be fully discussed in the SVPDP training sessions. Both the site coordinator and the trainer will help teachers set up the hearings either for classroom execution or for presentation to policy makers within the community based on the issue chosen by the class.