Educator Steve Cohen: Choosing to Participate | Facing History & Ourselves

Educator Steve Cohen: Choosing to Participate

Steve Cohen, Senior Lecturer at Tufts University’s Department of Education, explains how Facing History’s curriculum helps students to develop answers to the question “What am I supposed to do?” by leading them to explore and define their identity.
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At a Glance



English — US


  • Civics & Citizenship
  • Social Studies
  • Culture & Identity

The question in the 19th century was, what is to be done? In fact, three Russian writers wrote books with that title in the 19th century. Chernyshevsky, Tolstoy and Lenin we're trying to figure out what was to be done in Russia to change the world.

That's no longer the question we ask. We don't any longer say, what is to be done? We now ask, what am I supposed to do? That's the question for our century. And how is the student? How are any of us supposed to make those decisions?

The only way we can make those decisions is by thinking about, who we are? Where do we live? What makes us who we are? Where do we get our ideas? These are the kinds of questions we've looked at in this curriculum. They're the kinds of questions that we have to look on as we think about ourselves as citizens of a democracy.

How do we make decisions on who to vote for? How do we make decisions on what to do? How do we answer that very singular and existential question? What am I supposed to do? It's the one we are all trying to face as we make decisions, as we go forward in life. We are, after all, trying to face history as well as ourselves.

How to Cite This Video

Facing History & Ourselves, “Educator Steve Cohen: Choosing to Participate,” video, last updated April 8, 2022.

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The resources I’m getting from my colleagues through Facing History have been just invaluable.
— Claudia Bautista, Santa Monica, Calif