Education for Democracy
The AFT’s involvement in civic education is based on the conviction that the health of any democracy depends on its young people being aware of the value of free institutions and adequately prepared to function within them.
To support these goals, the AFT works with the Department of Education under the Education for Democracy Act to build international civic education partnerships. The most recent such collaboration is the Civic Voices International Democracy Memory Bank Project, which challenges students to preserve the legacy of their countries’ democratic struggles by speaking with the people who helped to advance rights and freedoms in their societies. Teachers will work with their students to conduct and record and archive oral histories from activists in iconic social movements in eight countries: Colombia, Georgia, Mongolia, Northern Ireland, the Philippines, Poland, South Africa and the United States. The project also offers opportunities for international exchanges and professional development for secondary civic education teachers.
The AFT also works with domestic and international partners in two other programs funded through the Department of Education: Civics Mosaic and Civitas Eurasia. These two programs encourage interaction between American teachers and educators in six formerly communist countries: Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia. These programs support teacher exchanges and materials development that infuse civic education programs with rich comparative study of governance systems.
These programs arose out of a long history of activism in global Education for Democracy programs. In 1987, the AFT Educational Foundation (AFTEF) brought together more than 150 prominent Americans from across the political spectrum to sign a Statement of Principles calling upon schools to “purposefully impart to their students the learning necessary for an informed, reasoned allegiance to the ideas of a free society.” Education for Democracy was an immediate success, and the AFT soon began receiving requests from abroad for materials about democracy, notably from the teachers’ section of Solidarnosc.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of democracies throughout Eastern Europe and other regions, such requests increased dramatically. The AFT has since been involved in civic education programs with educators in Albania, Bosnia, Burma, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Eritrea, Hungary, Ethiopia, Hong Kong, Kenya, Kosovo, Lithuania, Nicaragua, Romania, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.