AmericanValuesAre… was designed to promote civic education and civic engagement. Civic education leads to responsible citizenship. Responsible citizens are the core foundation of our democratic system.
Our guides are designed to facilitate dialogue about what it means to be a citizen, and to energize more Americans to be engaged in shaping and interacting with their own government. We also hope to be able to inform and educate people on how to engage in the dialogue that leads to common ground and minimizes partisan debate that divides and demoralizes us. We hope to encourage individuals to exchange ideas, thoughts, and concerns in a safe and comfortable environment, and by so doing build new relationships. Relationships that build on a shared sense of community are a true value for any democracy.
The following preface applies to each of the guides. Discuss it with your students first! You can also ask them to create their own lists of “values” and “habits” when you do.
Preface to Guides:
“Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife.” – John Dewey
A democracy is only as effective as its citizens, which is why civic education must be central to education in the United States. Only by encouraging young people to think about what it means to be American, and how our country works, will our country continue to thrive into the future.
A great way to approach civic education is by discussing what are and aren’t “American values”. American Values, as the phrase is used here, are exemplary behaviors or character traits that have always been valued as ideal for American government and citizenship. It is important to separate them from American “habits”, or activities that Americans might frequently fall into, but are not necessarily American “values”. By distinguishing between the two – values and habits – students (and other citizens) will be able to think about and learn what they appreciate most about America. This analysis and self-knowledge can help us to guide our lives as American citizens.