AP U.S. Government
Teacher: Javier A. Fernandez
RISE Schedule: Thursday, 7:30 to 8:15 a.m.
Introduction to Course
Chester Finn, a former United States Assistant Secretary of Education, asserts that “free government of, by, and for a free people is never – not here, not anywhere – inevitable.” As he puts it, “[T]he American experiment from the first seemed fragile and was by no means easy to perpetuate. Careful tending and constant maintenance . . . are required to transform the fruits of that experiment to future generations.”1
The goal of the 9th grade AP Government course at Alpharetta High School is to facilitate the “careful tending” and “maintenance” of our democracy that Finn urges, to foster in students an appreciation of their role as active citizens in our political system. Students enrolled in the course will engage in in-depth analysis of our institutions of government, those who run those institutions, the policies made by those institutions, and the influences of the electorate on policy making. But more than that, they will hone the skills necessary for effective democratic citizenship. As Arthur Pearl and Tony Knight describe them, those skills include the ability to “formulate a coherent argument” supported by evidence, “effectively communicate with a wide range of others, hear what a wide range of others are saying, search for a common ground by negotiating differences,” collaboratively produce a plan of action, and implement the plan in a matter “consistent with democratic principles."2 Thus cooperative learning, deliberation and discussion, and creative problem-solving will be major educational emphases throughout the year.
Just as importantly, a major goal of the course is the development of what education reformers are calling “21st century skills” – skills that are needed if students are to “successfully face rigorous higher education coursework, career challenges and a globally competitive workforce.”3 They align very closely to the skills required for active democratic citizenship and include critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation. (A description of these can be found here.)
1 Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, Terrorists, Despots, and Democracy: What Our Children Need To Know (Washington, D.C.: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, 2003).
2 Pearl, Arthur and Tony Knight, The Democratic Classroom: Theory to Inform Practice (New Jersey: Hampton Press, 1999).
3 Partnership for 21st Century Skills. http://www.p21.org (accessed August 8, 2012).