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America needs history and civics education to promote unity

Man in dark suit
Former U.S. Secretary of Education and Governor of South Carolina Richard Riley.

In the wake of the storming of the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, and amid a climate of political polarization in the country, six former U.S. education secretaries get behind an education initiative aimed at restoring a belief in the “world’s oldest constitutional democracy.” In an opinion piece appearing in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), the six secretaries – Lamar Alexander, Arne Duncan, John King, Rod Paige, Furman University’s Richard Riley and Margaret Spellings – say our country sits at a “crossroads,” and our democracy is in “grave danger.”

The solution toward a more united United States? – The Roadmap to Educating for American Democracy, the result of a 19-month collaboration among more than 300 scholars, educators, practitioners and students from diverse backgrounds. The plan intends to re-establish civics and American history as essential components of education, and it “lays a foundation to deliver opportunities for excellence in civic learning equitably to all students.”

Richard Riley is a 1954 Furman political science alumnus, and he holds a J.D. from the University of South Carolina School of Law. The Riley Institute at Furman is named for the former U.S. Secretary of Education (1993–2001) and former Governor of South Carolina (1979–1987). Riley is a senior partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough and its affiliate, EducationCounsel. In 2008, Riley was named one of the Top 10 Cabinet Members of the 20th Century by Time magazine.

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