The study of civics and democracy is common in schools; however, few educators would argue that our country could benefit from a conversation about civility, the courteous conduct essential in a humane society. Fortunately, Ken Burns — the filmmaker who brought The Civil War into our living rooms and classrooms with his enduring 1990 documentary — has announced an initiative to foster a national conversation about “Civility and Democracy.”
As part of the project, Burns and fellow filmmaker Lynn Novick will join the National Constitution Center and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to develop educational materials for a conversation on civility that will be conducted in a multi-city tour this year. In Burns’ words, “There is no topic more important to the ongoing health of our republic than civility and democracy . . . Civility is essential to our ability as a nation to confront together difficult issues, even when we may disagree, and to continue to improve as a country.”
While PBS Home Video and Paramount have reissued The Civil War in a deluxe “150th-anniversary’’ package, the timeless original and other powerful PBS documentaries by Burns and others are available free to educators at WGBY’s Lending Library. For images, maps, biographies,, historical documents, related links, fact page and section for educators, visit The Civil War website.