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In The Public Interest: What's Being Taught These Days In High School Civics Classes

Ypsilanti Community Schools
Lisa Barry
89.1 WEMU

This week on “In The Public Interest.” our bi-weekly conversation with the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area, WEMU’s Lisa Barry talks with local civics teacher Rebecca Wilinski about what’s being taught in local high school civics classes. 

What are the goals of social studies?

From press release:  Responsible citizenship requires active participation in our communities …Social studies prepares students to participate in political life, to serve their communities, and to conduct themselves responsibly

Are there prescribed curriculum sequences through all 12 grades?

The state of Michigan provides Social Studies standards and benchmarks for grades 9-12 as a whole.  Individual school districts make decisions about how those standards will be covered and in what grade level.

Tell us about the Harvard training you will be attending this summer?

LWVAAA worked with the Ypsilanti Community Schools and the Chelsea Public Schools to identify and nominate two teachers to attend a training course put on by the High School Case Study Project at Harvard Business School.  Rebecca and Laura Lutz from Chelsea will be going to Cambridge, MA August 18-20 to participate in a 3-day training on how to use case-based teaching in their High School civics and history classes.

From the Constitutional Convention to Civil Rights and beyond, each of our 22 cases explores a key decision point in the history of American democracy.

The cases are not all about Supreme Court decisions.  They are about pivotal decision points in our democracy where decisions had to be made by different actors (ie, our founders, national political leaders and legislators, state legislatures, civic and other groups, courts, regulators, etc.)  The cases give you the facts the decision-makers had at the time, and students step into their shoes to debate what kind of decision they would have reached and why.

How do you anticipate using this training in your classroom?

From Laura Lutz:

"Rebecca and I will be attending the training at Harvard August 18-20th. I hope to incorporate the Harvard Case Method into the new US Government course I will be teaching next year. From what I've heard and seen it seems to be a great way to get students engaged and for them to understand the importance of civic participation."

Will we be able to hear about the results?

The League of Women Voters AAA will organize a series of public case discussions for members of the wider community. 

Current basic requirements for High School graduation in Michigan are:

  • 4 Credits of English Language Arts.
  • 4 Credits of Mathematics.
  • 3 Credits of Science.
  • 3 Credits of Social Studies.
  • 1 Credit of Physical Education/Health.
  • 1 Credit of Visual, Performing, and Applied Arts.
League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area
Credit League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area / lwvannarbor.org
League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu

Lisa Barry was a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU.
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