What can Frederick Douglass teach us about civic education?

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Author: Vida de Voss
Date: Sept. 2014
From: Sister Namibia(Vol. 26, Issue 3)
Publisher: Sister Namibia
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,072 words
Lexile Measure: 1240L

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Education is about more than passing a test. Education is about learning. Education is about improving the quality of our lives and that of others. And as students of life who aim to positively affect the quality of life for all, it is important that we consider ourselves as significant role players in how our societies are shaped. For this engagement we need a measure of civic education to eradicate our ignorance as well as our apathy. For this it is important that we understand our history and our government, the obligations of both government and society, the importance of political participation and decision-making.

Inspirational in the pursuit of any kind of learning are the lives of those who were--and still are-denied this fundamental right. Let us therefore consider, by way of an extensive introduction, slave life at a time when, according to laws such as the South Carolina Act of 1740 and Virginia Revised Code of 1819, it was a criminal offence to teach a slave to read or write.

Frederick Douglass was born a slave. At age 7 he was taken from his home to another plantation. In chapter 5 of his autobiography, "Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass", he describes: "the rapture that flashed through [his] soul" as he beheld a white face smiling at him for the first time in his life. His new mistress had not owned a slave prior to him and because she earned her own money before marriage Douglass explains, she was also to a great degree "preserved from the blighting and dehumanising effects of slavery".

Soon after he...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A387828126