We the People: Civic Engagement in a Constitutional Democracy
Don’t sit back—your civic actions are just beginning.
Take civic action by crafting your own civic voice and identity while gaining a foundational knowledge of American constitutional democracy.
1-3 hours a week
What You'll Learn
When you read the Declaration of Independence do you feel inspired? Do you question those words? Do you think about what this means today?
Constitutional democracy is not just what was written on paper nearly 250 years ago; it is a living activity. It’s about what citizens need to do to make democracy work, about identifying your civic beliefs and duties and what matters to you and why—and how you can become an active participant in your communities and influence your government.
In We the People: Civic Engagement in a Constitutional Democracy, you will gain a foundational knowledge of American constitutional democracy and understand how to encourage others to explore their own civic paths, while in parallel crafting your own civic voice and identity. You'll learn about rights and responsibilities, constitutionalism, the philosophical foundations of democracy, and the levers of change. This course is built on more than ten years of academic research through the Democratic Knowledge Project, an initiative of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.
The course will be delivered via edX and connect learners around the world. By the end of the course, participants will be able to:
- Tell a story of self that explains what you value and why and the kind of communities and government in which you’d like to live
- Understand what it looks like when rights are not protected and how constitutional democracies are designed to secure rights
- Understand how and why U.S. democracy was built as it was, how it has changed over time, and what the levers of change are in this constitutional democracy
- Move from “I” to “We” in order to connect your own interests with those of broader communities, with awareness of how a diversity of perspectives and experiences can be integrated in the story of what U.S. democracy has been historically and can be in the future
- Differentiate and choose among the civic roles available to people who live in a constitutional democracy
- Express your opinions in public forums and create your next step plans as a civic participant
Danielle Allen is the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University. She is a political philosopher, who has published broadly in democratic theory, political sociology, and the history of political thought, as well as a policy expert who focuses on democracy innovation and education. She also directs the Democratic Knowledge Project, a K-16 civic education provider. Widely known for her work on justice and citizenship in both ancient Athens and modern America, her books include The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens (2000), Our Declaration: a reading of the Declaration of Independence in defense of equality , Cuz: an American Tragedy , and Talking to Strangers: anxieties of citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education. She is the co-editor of the award-winning Education, Justice, and Democracy (2013, with Rob Reich) and From Voice to Influence: Understanding Citizenship in the Digital Age (2015, with Jennifer Light). She has chaired numerous commission processes and is a lead author on influential policy roadmaps, including Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century. She was a contributing columnist for the Washington Post and writes for the Atlantic. Throughout her career, she has sought to understand civic participation, inspire civic engagement, and make the case for constitutional democracy.
Ways to take this course
When you enroll for this course, you will have the option of pursuing a Verified Certificate or Auditing the Course.
A Verified Certificate costs $99 and provides unlimited access to full course materials, activities, tests, and forums. At the end of the course, learners who earn a passing grade can receive a certificate.
Alternatively, learners can Audit the course for free and have access to select course material, activities, tests, and forums. Please note that this track does not offer a certificate for learners who earn a passing grade.