Most states require students in fifth grade to learn historical facts like when the Intolerable Acts were passed (1774) or who was the primary author of the Constitution (John Adams). But a new report says that to fully prepare students to engage in civic life, kindergarten through 12th grade teachers need to go deeper than places and dates — even if the change proves controversial.

The report, "Educating For American Democracy," is intended to help teachers do that by offering new guidance to national, state, tribal and local leaders about how they can assess their current practices and standards and teach history and civics in new ways.

"Our goal is to have one million teachers who will be ready for the work of educating for American democracy, ready and prepared in alignment with the guidance," said Danielle Allen, director of Harvard University's Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics and one of the report's primary authors.

Many national surveys have shown a widespread loss of confidence in Amercan civic order. Experts say a lack of consensus about the substance of what and how to teach history and civics in recent decades has contributed to poitical polarization and the loss of a sense of legitimacy in the nation's constitutional democracy.

In a media briefing last week, none of the reports' authors mentioned the attacks last month on the U.S. Capitol. But Peter Levine, a philosophy professor at Tufts Univerity and another primary author of the report, said that after 18 months working on the project he has gone from thinking the nation wasn't "in good shape" to believing that "our constitutional democracy is in peril."

“We must do something to rebuild our civic strength. We can’t wait,” Levine said. “We think America is in a bad place in part because the educational system, not only in schools but in higher education, has neglected the teaching of civics and American history.”

The project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the U.S. Department of Education, is the result of collaboration and discussion among 300 scholars, educators and practitioners. Several of the principal investigators are from Massachusetts universities, including Allen and Jane Kamensky at Harvard and Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg and Levine at Tufts.

The report includes a “roadmap” for educators that is organized around seven themes like “We The People,” which explores “the people” as a political concept, not just a group of people inhabiting the same geographic area. Another theme, "A People With Contemporary Debates And Possibilities," looks at how historical narratives shape current political arguments.

The themes also identify challenges — what the authors call “rich dilemmas” — that educators might face as they teach students. For example, the framework asks: “How can we offer an account of U.S. constitutional democracy that is simultaneously honest about the wrongs of the past without falling into cynicism, and appreciative of the founding of the United States without tipping into adulation?”

Those are already deeply divisive issues often handled by educators at the local level. Allen said the project will offer teacher support, including a website, that will offer examples of curriculum plans.

The project's creators come from diverse backgrounds and span an ideological spectrum. iCivics, a Cambridge nonprofit founded by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, played a key role in the report. Justice Sonia Sotomayor currently sits on its board. Other participants include David Bobb, president of the Bill of Rights Institute, and Jeremy Gypton from the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University in Ohio. That center is named after the late John Ashbrook, a conservative Republican congressman.

Levine says the report, guidelines and roadmap offer educators an opportuntity to push history lessons and create civic classes that move from lists of facts to important questions.

"What were the experiences with the British government of British colonists, of Indigenous Americans, of enslaved Americans and indentured Americans?" he asked, by way of example.

That, he said, is a much deeper, richer and broader question.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Peter Levine's first name.