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A reading list for 'We the People'

While preparing material for today's pullout section, we asked historians what they would recommend readers do to find out how well democracy is taught in their local schools.

We received the same answer from every person queried.

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First off, find out what the teachers have read and are reading.

All expect teachers to have read the Federalist Papers and Alexis de Tocqueville's ''Democracy in America.''

(Richard Reeves has come to the aid of all teachers who either have forgotten just what de Tocqueville wrote or never remember reading his momentous work. In the April 5 and April 12 issues of the New Yorker magazine is a two-part revisiting of de Tocqueville's America.)

It is just such a work as the Reeves revisitation of Tocqueville that historians want teachers to read, think about, and use as background for whatever it is they teach, be it music, math, or US history.

Historians also want teachers to have read, and to keep on reading as they are published, good biographies of such democratic stalwarts as Thomas Jefferson , Abraham Lincoln, James Madison, John Adams, and, of course, George Washington.

Stephen Oates's biographical works on Lincoln tops all lists the Monitor received.

Max Beloff's ''Thomas Jefferson and American Democracy,'' is also popular with several historians.

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If you teach school in the United States and haven't read ''The American Political Tradition,'' by Richard Hofstadter, you receive a failing grade from several professors.

Another book several professors find fascinating, particularly for those who work with junior and senior high school students, is Mark Twain's ''The Innocents Abroad.''

These thoughtful educators would have teachers reread this Twain classic and incorporate many of his ideas into teaching lessons for today's innocents.

Also, these historians want schoolteachers to talk about the books they have read; to discuss concepts and ideas with colleagues.

And finally, a few titles are recommended with the reservation that they are not available in many school libraries but can be acquired through state library-loan systems:

''Creation of the American Republic: Seventeen Seventy-Six to Seventeen Eighty-Seven,'' by Gordon S. Wood.

''Concept of Jacksonian Democracy: New York as a Case Study, 1961,'' by Lee Benson.

''Birth of Mass Political Parties in Michigan, 1827-1861,'' by Ronald P. Formisano.

A two-volume work by David H. Donald: Vol. I ''Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War'' and Vol. II ''Charles Sumner and the Rights of Man.''

Good reading, all.

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