Center in the News
  • The voter turnout conundrum in L.A. - LA Times
    It's one of the worst ideas we've heard in a long time: Last week, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission floated a plan to offer cash prizes as an incentive to get Angelenos to vote in local elections. Sheer desperation, as far as we can tell, led the commission to propose an election day lottery, with a jackpot of $1,000 or more that might persuade more registered voters to go to the polls. Would it work? Probably. But it's still a bad idea. L.A. is certainly not the only city that suffers from low participation in local elections. But here, as elsewhere, reviving civic engagement may require big changes in how residents are educated and representatives are chosen. Here are some ways to start: Teach civics in schools. Most CA students take one American government class that is more focused on the federal system and on memorization of facts, rather than on what it means to be a citizen. Less than half of high school seniors feel a responsibility to be involved in state and local issues.

  • Margaret Branson Honored by PEO International
    Center for Civic Education's Associate Director Margaret Branson is being honored by the service organization PEO International as a "Champion for Education." On page 17 of the PEO Record is an article attesting to her many extraordinary qualities. "She has shared her gifts of wisdom, experience and dedication with leaders of states, governments and nations. Margaret has an incredible depth of understanding of worldwide human rights catastrophes and celebrations. When home, she blesses her (community) with yearly programs that give us insight into her realm and made us feel important in her lifelong journey of love and giving. Margaret, our Golden Girl, has taught us that in the current, dramatic demands for freedom throughout the world, there is no more important task than the development of an informed, effective and responsible citizenry."

  • Nat Hentoff on Rand Paul and We the People | Cato Institute
    Nat Hentoff writes that "what’s...alarming for our future as a self-governing republic is that so few public schools...have mandated courses in...the ever-dramatic story of how our Constitution has been rescued from regal presidents and their Congresses." He referred to the Center for Civic Education as an "organization devoted to increasing awareness among students of all backgrounds on what it is to be—and keep being—an American." He particularly cited "the national 'We the People Programs,' as "a yearning of mine come true...." "The Center partners with a network of 50 state civics, government and law programs sponsored by state bar associations and foundations, colleges and universities, and other civic and law nonprofit organizations to promote teaching and learning about the Constitution and Bill of Rights.” He thinks the National Finals should be televised and Members of Congress could be part of the audience. He wonders why the program isn't more broadly covered by the media.

  • Democracy in decline: Report votes for training better citizens | Modesto Bee
    While complaining about government is as popular as ever, voting appears to be losing its red, white and blue appeal. A yearlong California state study released last week waved red flags at the state of civics education and urged updated lessons be taught in every grade. The report quotes Robert Ruckman, a We the People teacher at Arvin High School: “There is not a magic (power) that comes down on your 18th birthday and hits you with a wand and says, ‘Now you are a great citizen, go out there and do it.’ You have to teach this.” The Stanislaus County Office of Education will again hold a Project Citizen program, said district coordinator Danielle Jones. “Students identify a community need, then do research on that,” The goal is to help students go from complaining to doing. “It’s really teaching them about the process,” Jones said.

  • Task force urges remake of civic education | EdSource
    A state task force is calling for a revival in civics education, transforming it from “an afterthought” – an undervalued social studies class – to a core element of study and community engagement. The California Task Force on K-12 Civic Learning, commissioned by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, issued its final report this week. It urges a new approach to civic learning, which it defines as “cultivating the qualities that will enable all students to mature and participate in our democracy.” The 23-member task force was co-chaired by David Gordon, Sacramento County superintendent of schools, and Judith McConnell, administrative presiding justice of California’s 4th District Court of Appeal in San Diego. Charles Quigley of the Center for Civic Education was a consultant to the Task Force.

  • Gahanna We the People Teacher To Accept National Teacher of the Year Honors
    Gahanna Middle School South teacher Mike Browning will receive the American Lawyers Alliance 2014 National Middle School Law-Related Teacher of the Year Award at its annual meeting on Friday in Boston. Browning has taught social studies for more than 25 years at both the middle and high school levels, and currently teaches eighth grade American History. Since 2008, Browning has implemented the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution curriculum in his classroom. We the People, administered in Ohio by the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education, focuses on the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. “Mike is an example of what a teacher should be. He engages his students in rigorous, academic activities that teach the content in an enjoyable fashion,” said nominator Lisa Eschleman, OCLRE executive director.

  • Greenwich High Students Earn Essay-Writing Honors | The Greenwich Daily Voice
    Nine students from Greenwich High School won local, state and national essay contest awards during the 2013-14 school year. The essay contests were part of the We The People: The Citizen and the Constitution, Honors Civics and AP Government and Comparative Politics courses at Greenwich High, taught by Aaron Hull and Megan Roby. “The outside juried process of the essay competitions gives the students an opportunity to engage in multiple modalities of the Vision of the Graduate – pose and pursue substantive questions; communicate effectively for a given purpose; critically interpret, evaluate and synthesize information; and advocate for ideas, causes and actions – to name a few,” said Hull. “The advantages of engaging, through research and writing, with members of the community locally and nationally are profound. I am incredibly proud of our students who take on these challenges to hone their analytic abilities and improve their writing and communication skills,” he said.

  • Smithfield teacher receives American Civic Education Teacher Award | The Valley Breeze
    High School social studies teacher Natalie O'Brien received one of the 2014 American Civic Education Teacher Awards in recognition of her work preparing young people to become informed and engaged citizens. "This award is given annually to teachers of civics, government, and other related subjects who have demonstrated exceptional expertise, dynamism and creativity in motivating students to learn about Congress, the Constitution and public policy." O'Brien was one of just three teachers to receive the award nationally. To learn more visit: http://www.centeroncongress.org/teachers-from-massachusetts-rhode-island.

  • An article by Donna Paoletti Phillips on "Embodied Civic Education"
    In this journal article We the People teacher Donna Paoletti Phillips writes about "Embodied civic education: The corporeality of a civil body politic." Quoting Margaret Branson, Phillips notes that "Some scholars claim that knowledge of the values and principles of democracy may be the most significant component of education for democratic citizenship, because when democratic norms are well understood they may have a kind of “grip on the mind” that makes them operate at a deeply internalized if not unconscious level. Dr. Phillips takes this notion "one step further and suggests that civic education establishes not only a “grip on the mind” but also a grip on the body.

  • Florida teacher and his students endorse We the People
    Cynics will tell you that people don't care enough about our country anymore, and the proof is in an apathetic, uninformed citizenry. There is some basis for their lament. In 2011 Newsweek magazine gave the basic citizenship test, that is given to immigrants, to 1,000 American citizens. A shameful 38 percent of the test-takers failed. Well, for all those naysayer, meet Doug “Buddy” Oswald's American Government students. Oswald, a lawyer turned teacher in the school system's Career Academy, put his charges' knowledge of their government and political system on display as part of the statewide “We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution” competition. It was impressive. It was humbling. It was enough to restore one's faith — if one had lost faith — in America's future. Every student participates, indeed engages, in the competition. “It's important,” Oswald said of the learning that precedes the competition. “This is the only way our government is going to survive."