The teaching of civics and history – an opportunity to better understand our past and how our government works so we can engage in and influence our future – has long provided the foundation for students to be active participants in society and help our nation live up to its highest ideals. These values have been championed over the years by Americans of all backgrounds, and they are deeply embedded in our commitment to both patriotism and progress.
One of the ways the Department carries out these efforts is through programs like the American History and Civics grant programs, part of which was first launched in the early 2000’s, authorized in 2017 and supported by bipartisan leaders in the House and Senate. The goal of this program is to improve the quality of American history, civics, and government education in order to provide more students the opportunity to learn about the rich history of our nation and build the skills needed to fully participate in civic life. The program enables higher education institutions, non-profit organizations, and other interested applicants the opportunity to explore innovative and creative ways to support educators and the teaching of history to students, aiming to build a more active, engaged society. This program, however, has not, does not, and will not dictate or recommend specific curriculum be introduced or taught in classrooms. Those decisions are – and will continue to be – made at the local level.
Today the Department is posting the Notices Inviting Applications for this year’s American History and Civics grant competitions. The notices include two priorities that are invitational, meaning they encourage applicants to address topics that are important to the Department. The first invitational priority encourages projects that incorporate racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives into teaching and learning. This priority is included because the Department recognizes the value of supporting teaching and learning that reflects the rich diversity, identities, histories, contributions, and experiences of all students. As every parent knows, when students can make personal connections to their learning experiences, there are greater opportunities for them to stay engaged in their education and see pathways for their own futures.
A second invitational priority encourages projects that improve students’ information literacy skills. At a time when our democratic institutions are threatened by misinformation and disinformation, our democracy depends on robust civic engagement and informed public discourse, and civics education can help students become better citizens by developing the skills necessary to distinguish between accurate and inaccurate information.
Like invitational priorities in any grant competition, applicants are not required to address these priorities, and earn no additional points and gain no competitive advantage in the grant competition for addressing these priorities.
At the Department, we will continue our work providing engaging, innovative learning opportunities to students, in order to build stronger societies and better futures for all communities. Through the teaching of American history and civics, we can continue our efforts toward reaching those founding ideals of our nation. And as President Biden has noted, while we still haven’t yet lived up to all of those ideals, we will never stop trying.