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American Educator
Fall 2003


Table of Contents


Education for Democracy (PDF)
A Statement Signed by Over 100 Distinguished Leaders

The political system of democracy is "radical, recent, rare. It is our children's inheritance." How to pass it on? How to embed a commitment to it "deeply in their souls"? Over one hundred prominent Americans, from across a wide political and cultural spectrum, signed this statement, which begins to answer these complicated, vitally important questions.

In Pursuit of a "Civic Core"
A Report on State Standards
By Paul Gagnon

The author finds that despite many good efforts, state standards for secondary-level social studies subjects are either too vague or the topic lists too long—either way, the core ideas and events that are indispensable to the formation of young democrats are impossible to discern. What we need is a "civic core," standards that specify a limited set of such ideas and topics. Beyond this, states, communities, and teachers could add additional topics.

Leaving Reality Out
How Textbooks (Don't) Teach about Tyranny
By Diane Ravitch

To really understand democracy—to understand why our predecessors fought for it, why each generation since has fought to strengthen, expand, and preserve it, why they created the institutions they did—you need to understand democracy's opposite. Trouble is, you'll be hard pressed to find a textbook that reveals the reality of life under tyranny.

Freedom's Opposite
Recommended Readings on Totalitarianism and Tyranny
By Arch Puddington

Since the textbooks say so little, teachers could use extra background on the realities of tyranny. We offer here a suggested reading list.

Glimpses of Tyranny and Resistance

Tyrannies come in different forms and produce different horrors. In Rwanda, as in Hitler's Germany and elsewhere, the government used its immense power to foment and unleash ethnic hatred to terrible it produced genocide. In Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini's regime meant harsh treatment of dissidents, the end of academic freedom, book banning, required wearing of the veil—and a secret literature class in which Iranian women were able to find in books a "pocket for freedom" denied to them in life. In these excerpts from two outstanding books, we get glimpses of life and tragedy under two tyrannies.

Genocide in Rwanda
By Philip Gourevitch

Reading Lolita in Tehran
By Azar Nafisi

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About American Educator

American Educator is a quarterly journal of educational research and ideas published by the American Federation of Teachers. Recent articles have focused on such topics as reducing the achievement gap between poor and affluent students, heading off student discipline problems, teaching an appreciation and understanding of democracy, the benefits of a common coherent curriculum, and other issues affecting children and education here and abroad. Total circulation, as of our most recent issue, is over 900,000.

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