May 26, 2021
The need for primary source documents in civics education
Reforms to history and civics education need to prioritize students having access to primary source documents from American history and acquiring the critical thinking skills to navigate what these texts mean for today’s world.
American history and civics education are currently caught in loud cultural battles. This is partly because many people – some from the left side of the political spectrum, some from the right, some maybe from neither – believe that a particular viewpoint in our American story is in danger of being silenced.
No matter who has the complaints, what’s missing is historical references and context.
While modern day debates, current news stories, and even textbooks offer perspective on America, primary source documents allow students to access knowledge directly about our nation without added bias or spin.
Coupled with critical thinking skills, increased focus on primary sources allows students to sort through torrents of information themselves to discern what they think about issues.
Sutherland Institute’s new series
To this end, Sutherland Institute is launching a new research series that highlights key historical references – primary sources from American history – that are valuable inclusions for any history or civics education.
The primary source documents that this series will review include: the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers, Marbury v. Madison, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In reviewing these sources, we will answer the following questions: What is the document about? Where did it come from in our history? Where can parents and educators find easy links to this primary source document? Why is it an important element of civics and history education?
We hope that by doing so, we can bolster the use of primary sources in the history and civics education of Utah students in traditional schools, alternative schooling options, and homeschool.
A better way is both possible and doable. We just have to be willing to be the kind of people who can accomplish it.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a significant religious freedom decision this morning, with all the justices concluding that the city of Philadelphia violated the constitutional rights of a religious foster care agency, Catholic Social Services, when it “stopped referring children to CSS upon discovering that the agency would not certify same-sex couples to be foster parents due to its religious beliefs about marriage.”
New education survey data released by Sutherland Institute show that while parents may not always have a high opinion about curriculum, Utah parents have a high opinion of their kids’ teachers. Even better, parents and teacher share many opinions when it comes to civics education and how to improve it.