Building a Better High School Government Course


My students at the White House (2010).

An energetic young teacher spent the summer of 1996 preparing to teach Advanced Placement U.S. Government for the first time. This week, that teacher finished teaching his last AP Government course. After 18 years, I am done with “AP Gov” for the foreseeable future.

I am as passionate today about teaching citizenship as I have ever been, arguably more so, and I will be teaching a different kind of course in government and politics next year.

A Better Civics Course

Though my school isn’t offering AP, I have the unique opportunity in 2014-15 to teach a new and different kind of government course. One that drops some of the things I’ve never quite liked about the Advanced Placement program – the breakneck attempt to cram content, the standardization of everything (knowledge AND students), and the high-pressure exam culture. My new course will be inquiry-/project-based and in line with our school’s and department’s mission:

OES prepares students… so that they may realize their power for good as citizens of local and world communities.

The department… motivates students to raise, investigate, and respond to meaningful questions about human experience, so that they may become active citizens locally and globally.

A “better government course” will give students the chance to actually be citizens, engaged in the community, and not simply academics studying citizenship and preparing for exams. I imagine students will do work that is meaningful to them, while preparing for both university and a life of contribution to local and global societies.

What is a great high school level course in government, politics, and citizenship?

Any ideas? I could use your help in designing my new course.

Complete this form below, or use the comment tool on this blog post. In future posts, I will describe the process of designing this course, from soup to nuts, and key events in its roll-out in 2014-15.