Shogan Discusses Civics as a Unifying Force With Education Secretary

By Pete Lewis 


To mark the second annual celebration of National Civic Learning Week, Archivist of the United States Dr. Colleen Shogan hosted a fireside chat with U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel A. Cardona, March 12. The discussion focused on the importance of civics and history education for every student in order to sustain and strengthen our constitutional democracy.

Civic Learning Week provides an opportunity for students, educators, policymakers, and private sector leaders to energize the movement for civic education across the nation. This year it runs from March 11–15, with a theme of 2024 and Beyond: Civic Learning as a Unifying Force. The celebration aims to provide elementary and secondary school students with positive and engaging civic learning opportunities; engaging the public around the importance of civic learning and elevating it as a national priority; and providing a mechanism for educators, students, coalition partners, business leaders, and other community members to connect at the local level and beyond around a shared commitment to civic education.

“I look to all of you to partner with schools, to help provide that support, that guidance, that nudge that [shows] this could be done and we can do it in a way that brings people together,” Cardona said . “I always say that education should bring people together. When we’re talking about civics, literacy and even numeracy can be woven into it, and it can be brought into different levels, elementary, middle and high school.”

During the conversation, Shogan shared a personal experience with civic engagement. As part of an assignment as a high school student, she attended a local civic meeting in her hometown of Pittsburgh. There she was able to publicly speak out against a proposed removal of a stop sign in her neighborhood.

“If you talk to our youth today, they have things they are passionate about,” Cardona said. “We don’t always have a platform for them to express it in a way that they’re growing and learning. We need more of that if we expect them to be civically engaged.”

The Secretary and Archivist spoke about the important role of teachers in helping students understand and participate in their own betterment via civics education and engagement

“Teachers need to be given the ABCs of teaching: agency, better working conditions, and competitive salary. Agency means trusting them as professionals,” Cardona said. “I think professional development and giving them the tools that they need to be successful. I think we need to have robust curricula that present the truth. And we need to help students become thinkers. Good civics education does that.”

Following the fireside chat, Cardona answered questions from the in-person and online audiences.

View the discussion on the National Archives YouTube Channel.

View the National Archives Calendar of Events for information on future events.

Check out the National Archives’ Civics for All of US initiative for ways to help promote civic literacy and engagement.