Choosing to Participate | Facing History & Ourselves

Choosing to Participate

Our approach helps students understand that people make choices and choices make history. Students learn that participating in a democracy involves many small choices and decisions as well as ambitious acts and social movements.

Making a Positive Difference

Facing History believes the paramount purpose of education is to prepare students to become active and thoughtful participants in society who can make a positive difference in the world. Schools are a microcosm of democracy, and students develop and strengthen their “participation muscles”—a combination of civic skills, knowledge, and dispositions—throughout their education. 

The concept of choosing to participate grew out of Facing History’s early work with middle school students who learned about the steps that led to the Holocaust, including the failure of democracy, and wanted to know, “How can I make a positive difference so this doesn’t happen again?” 

Our approach helps students understand that progress toward a more just, equitable, and inclusive society has never been inevitable; rather, it is the result of the choices large and small by both individuals and groups.

Who Is an Upstander?

Cartoon of speaker and audience.





Who Is an Upstander?

An upstander is a person who speaks or acts in support of an individual or cause, particularly someone who intervenes on behalf of a person being attacked or bullied. Find out how we help students become upstanders.

People make choices. Choices make history.
Students Smiling at Laptops in Classroom

From Reflection to Action

Through a wide range of activities designed to promote historical understanding, critical thinking, civic engagement, and self-reflection, students explore how society influences us and how we can make a lasting impact.

Download the Guide

Facing History Encourages Civic Engagement

93% of students participating in a Facing History student leadership group agreed that it is important to get involved in improving their community.

Read About Our Impact

I grew up believing my voice was never meant to be heard. The courage of these survivors made me realize that not using your voice is a choice, standing by is a choice. If we could teach that to every student, just imagine how quickly the world might change.
— Emily C., Recipient of the 2018 New York Upstander Award

Everyone can choose to participate.

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