Zachary Flowers, a government and civics teacher at the Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts, has been chosen to participate in the Harvard Case Method Workshop. This two-and-a-half day professional development project will take place at the Harvard Business School in Cambridge, Massachusetts on August 16 through 18, 2020.
The project will be led by award-winning Harvard Business School professor David Moss.
Dr. Moss compares student immersion in case after case studies to batting practice that helps train judgment.
Flowers was nominated by The League of Women Voters of Chattanooga in partnership with the League of Women Voters of Greenwich, Connecticut and the Harvard Case Method Institute for Education and Democracy in Cambridge, Ma., because of his teaching accomplishments in the area of government and civics.
The Case Method Project, which will now be an online virtual experience due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is intended to help teachers improve their method of teaching government and civics to their students. It is an interactive teaching tool meant to deepen students’ understanding of American democracy and goes beyond historical skills and factual content. Through an objective understanding of events, emphasizing content, chronology and comprehensiveness, it aims to hone decision-making skills. Rather than merely knowing which decisions historical figures made, the program engages and inspires students to understand why.
Mr. Flowers, who has been teaching at Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts for three years, oversees senior projects in addition to teaching Government and Civics, Economics, and Personal Finance. He was chosen for this project after submitting an essay to Chattanooga’s League of Women Voters and says he believes history is about telling a story. “I believe wholeheartedly that the Harvard Case Method will provide all of my students with the tools to learn the history of their nation, wrestle with the conflicts that existed, and defend their ideas about the past while shaping their opinions and beliefs for the future.”
Legislators and educators have been trying to revive Civics which has been in decline in schools for decades. From the Constitutional Convention to Civil Rights and beyond, 22 case studies in this project explore key decision points in the history of American democracy to lead to an objective understanding of events.
Government and civics classes have a reputation for being dry. This means that too many students forget what they’ve been taught. Two-thirds of Americans could not name all three branches of government, according to an Annenberg Public Policy Center survey published in 2015. Only a third could name a single Supreme Court justice. Lee Ann Mills, a former high school principal and member of the local league says, “Civics education empowers us to be well-informed, active citizens and gives us the opportunity to change the world around us. It’s important to understand public issues as a voter so you feel you’re a full participant in the political process.”
Schools eager to avoid controversy have sanitized their curriculums. Since then, courses on government have remained common, but most offer little more than rote study of the structures of government. Mr. Flowers will be asked to certify that he is willing and able to teach the cases in a non-partisan way.
Mr. Flowers said, “it isn’t a matter of right versus wrong every time, but is it more about a differing view on those experiences. To heal such a divide requires equipping citizens with the ability to engage those with differing opinions through a productive and respectful discussion.” He believes that the Harvard Case Method will provide his seniors with the ability to do just that, and in turn, enter their post-high school lives with the skills to unite the country, or at least, make an impact on the communities they live in.
Teaching Civics with this method offers students real-world situations and allows them to parse out important aspects of a given dilemma. They learn to think fast on their feet with limited information which sharpens their analytical skills and empowers them to make critical decisions in real time. They begin to understand how different people use the same information to arrive at diverse conclusions.
Teachers chosen for this initiative agree to teach at least four of the “democracy” cases in their classrooms after the workshop, and are asked to lead a community discussion with their local league. Mr. Flowers has agreed to lead a discussion hosted by the Chattanooga League of Women Voters.