Political theorist Danielle Allen worries that Americans aren’t being properly educated for citizenship
Danielle AllenPHOTO: JASON GROW FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
After writing an article critical of Donald Trump a few months ago, the political theoristDanielle Allen received dozens of racist tweets and emails from his supporters, one with a picture of a noose. But it hasn’t stopped her from being heartened by one aspect of this election cycle: the increased voter turnout that helped Mr. Trump become the presumptive Republican nominee for president. She has long argued for more civic participation and engagement in the political system—and not just for people who share her own political views.
Dr. Allen responded to some of her critics directly and to others in open letters published online. She advised them to read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Federalist Papers, and to think about issues like the character of public officials and the principles of constitutionalism. If Americans were better equipped to reflect on their laws and the promises of politicians, she believes, they would elect more thoughtful and less divisive leaders.
Dr. Allen, 44, a government professor at Harvard University and director of its Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, is a big proponent of political equality—the idea that every American should play an active role in the workings of our democracy.
It is the subject of her 2014 book, “Our Declaration,” a conversational analysis of the Declaration of Independence. The book was inspired by a night class she taught to low-income adult students in Chicago from 1999 to 2009, while she was at the University of Chicago and, later, at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. Her night students made her realize, she says, that “the Declaration of Independence is the story of human agency”—that is, of how diverse individuals join together in a shared public life.
Unlike her students at the university, her night students tended to apply the Declaration—and their other readings, from Sophocles’ “Antigone” to Shakespeare’s sonnets—to their own lives. They talked about issues like policing, unemployment and education and compared them to the frustrations the colonists once had under England’s rule. Dr. Allen felt that the Declaration was inspiring them to take charge and try to change their own In Pursuit of Political Equality - WSJ: