Rebuilding Civic Education

The Educating for American Democracy initiative embraced complexity and controversy to achieve unexpected consensus

October 2021

The constitutional democracy of the United States is in peril, and there is a widespread loss of confidence in government and civic order. Generations of students have not received the high quality education in history and civics that they need, and deserve, to prepare them for informed and engaged citizenship, and the time has come to rebuild civic education. Leaders of an inspiring and large-scale HIBAR research project, the Educating for American Democracy initiative, set out to tackle the challenge of developing a balanced, national-consensus framework and a proposed plan of action for civic and history education.


In this webinar, three key participants described their collective journey to work together, even through many disagreements, and across diverse and numerous stakeholders, toward a shared goal to fundamentally improve civics education in the United States. In part because of the process, the EAD team produced a robust framework that has gained overwhelming support from the K-12 civics and history communities, and well beyond.


Key Takeaway Messages

  • Complexity and controversy can lead to a strong consensus.
  • Strategies for maintaining functional conflict are essential for reaching a consensus.
  • Effective approaches are needed to communicate with different groups of stakeholders.  

Watch the full webinar recording and a short video with key takeaway messages below. 

Read the key takeaway messages from all of our webinars here.


Paul Carrese
Founding Director
School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership
Arizona State University

Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg
Director, Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRLCE) 
Tufts University

Tammy Waller
Director of K-12 Social Studies 
and World Languages 
Arizona Department of Education 

Educating for American Democracy (EAD) is an unprecedented effort that convened a diverse group of scholars and educators to create a Roadmap to Educating for American Democracy. This required acquiring a deep, evidence-based understanding of key issues from many perspectives and creatively designing, developing, and evaluating new approaches. The roadmap provides guidance and an inquiry framework that states, local school districts, and educators can use to transform teaching of history and civics to meet the needs of a diverse 21st century K–12 student body. The work was supported by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the U.S. Department of Education.


The webinar speakers described how the initiative brought together hundreds of ideologically, philosophically, and demographically diverse historians, political scientists, and educators. The project required multiple task forces and working groups, each one grappling with a key design challenge. Together, the collaborators learned to approach disagreement and controversy as an opportunity for learning rather than as a problem to be overcome and, in doing so, they achieved much greater consensus than they had anticipated. The creative tension that resulted from conflicting priorities and perspectives was productively harnessed, leading to energetic debate, new perspectives, and alternative approaches that would not otherwise have been developed. The presenters shared their experience and thoughts about how the lessons they learned may be applied to HIBAR research challenges in other fields.

Watch the full webinar recording

Watch key excerpts from the webinar