Posts

Showing posts from January, 2017

Early Returns Promising on Civics Course Implementation Efforts

Image
by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
In order to understand the impact of our civic course implementation efforts, and better serve teachers, schools, and districts moving forward, we have partnered with our friends at the Center for Information Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University for formative and summative feedback and evaluation. Last summer, we offered nine two-day regional workshops for teachers throughout Illinois. Attendees (237 in total) completed pre- and post-workshop surveys, and the results are shaping our plans for this coming summer and beyond.

Teachers identified several reasons for attending the workshops, but a thirst for additional classroom resources and alignment with the emerging state social studies standards stood atop the list. Also significant was exploring opportunities for student electoral engagement and understanding the new civics course requirement. It is interesting to note that professional development credit…

Making Sense of Saturday's Demonstrations and the State of American Democracy

Image
by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
While life may be a series of hellos and goodbyes, our new President Donald Trump was greeted on the first day of his presidency with historically large protests that spanned the nation and globe. And it seems likely that this loyal opposition movement is here to stay. The meaning of these protests and their tactics moving forward are open for debate and the subject of today’s post.

Trump’s surprise victory, accompanied by the vitriol that he and many of his supporters spewed during the campaign, is seen by some as a direct threat to their very identities, democracy more generally, and the country they hold dear. Saturday’s marches united young and old, women and their male allies, whites and people of color, citizens and undocumented immigrants, and the spectrum of sexual identities in a historic show of solidarity. Participants faithfully wielded their First Amendment rights to send a strong message of eternal vigilance.

The causes repre…

Trump's Dark, America First Inaugural Address Has Strong Historical Parallels

Image
by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
Last week we said goodbye to President Obama and dissected the meaning of his farewell address delivered right here in his hometown of Chicago. On Friday, Donald Trump was inaugurated as the nation’s 45th President, and delivered a brief address that has since been dissected by pundits ad nauseum, mostly with deep criticism for its dark tone and lingering campaign flavor.

As teachers, we owe it to our students to dive deeper. True, Trump’s speech cast a shadow on the state of the country he inherits, and he used it as a contrast for his agenda to “make America great again.” But it is not without historical parallels. Andrew Jackson claimed that his victory in 1828 represented a revolution in that the people took back their government.

Trump struck similar tones in suggesting that “…today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another -- but we are transferring power from Washington, D.…

President Obama's Farewell Address a Civics Lesson and Call to Action

Image
by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
Last week, President Obama returned to Chicago to deliver his farewell address at McCormick Place. “Our nation’s call to citizenship” was central to his message, wrapped around three threats to our democracy. His words translate into a powerful lesson plan for engaging students in post-election public policy and the democratic process more generally.

Our collective work in civic education lies at the center of two (often) competing agendas, both of them present in the President’s address. One, we seek to build adherence among our students to the American system of democracy. And two, we strive to equip them with the tools and dispositions to form a more perfect union.



The first threat detailed by President Obama was various roadblocks to the American Dream, including equitable access to an education. This leads naturally to class discussions of the platforms of our two major political parties, and how they square with the campaign rhetori…

The Springfield Stalemate Looms Large as the 100th Illinois General Assembly Convenes

Image
by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
On Monday, in line with our focus on post-election policy, we discussed three key variables to consider when teaching the newly sworn in 115th Congress. Yesterday, the 100th Illinois General Assembly took their own oaths of office, making for a timely preview of the body and the road ahead this spring.

As detailed in our post-election analysis, Republicans made subtle inroads into Democrats’ supermajorities in the Illinois House and Senate, undermining it altogether in the case of the former. Thus, the House and Speaker Michael Madigan no longer have the votes to override gubernatorial vetoes along party lines.

However, compromise has been elusive since Republican Governor Bruce Rauner was inaugurated in January 2015. Rauner has demanded passage of selected elements of his pro-business, anti-labor “Turnaround Agenda” in exchange for a budget agreement featuring a mix of spending cuts and tax increases.



Speaker Madigan and House Democr…

Three Key Variables to Consider When Teaching the 115th Congress

by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
Consistent with our focus on post-election policy, today’s post will preview the 115th Congress, sworn in last week. In November, Republicans retained control of both the House and the Senate. They have a 241-194 majority in the House, and a narrower 52-48 majority in the Senate.

The responsibilities of our national lawmaking branch are far-reaching, but a few key variables warrant close observation in our classrooms this spring and beyond.

First, to what extent will congressional Republicans serve as a rubber stamp for President-Elect Trump’s agenda? Trump’s flexible beliefs in many ways challenge traditional Republican orthodoxy, from trade policy to entitlement reform to the U.S. relationship with Russia. Yet Trump turned the electoral map upside-down in his surprise victory and carried many vulnerable Republican incumbents in Congress with him. Presidential coattails usually lend themselves to a honeymoon period with members of his pa…

Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon Delivers Final Lecture at SIU in Carbondale, Embraces Lincoln's Legacy

Image
by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
I had the distinct privilege of attending United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s final public lecture on December 21st at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. His Illinois itinerary also included a visit to the Lincoln Library and Museum.

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute was among the event’s sponsors and hosted an intimate reception for the Secretary-General prior to his lecture (see picture below). As I’ve written previously, the Simon Institute has long served as our bridge to Southern Illinois teachers and schools in our work to strengthen the state’s civic education system.

At the lecture, we were joined by students and teachers from Carbondale Community High School, our first Democracy School in Southern Illinois. Their delegation was led by social studies teacher Daron Abscher, our Illinois Civics Teacher Mentor representing the Jackson-Perry Regional Office of Education.

Building global awareness among stude…