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Showing posts from March, 2017

Guest Blog: Genius Hour at Antioch High School

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by Jim Vera, Social Studies Department Chair, Oswego East High School What do you wonder about? What have you always wanted to do? What would you do if you could change the world?

These are questions the students at Antioch High School deal with on Fridays in Global Studies. This year-long service project, started by Lauren Krickl is something that she has her freshmen deal with every Friday as part of a program called “Genius Hour.” Students get a chance to spend a year making their plan to change the world! It started with Krickl, but now Grant Murray, Social Studies Department Chair, has been able to expand this process to include all Global Studies classes, and it is now part of the curriculum. Genius Hour was the focus of their presentation at the 2017 Democracy School Annual Convening.


Getting students to think outside the box is a challenge for all teachers. Krickl, Murray and Antioch student Monica Wilhem talked about their successes and failures with this program. …

Carolyn Pereira, 2016 Illinois Democracy Schools Recognized for Commitments to Students' Civic Development

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by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
Last Thursday, our annual convening of the Democracy Schools Network kicked off with a reception at Cantigny Park where 13 Illinois high schools were recognized in the largest class of Democracy Schools to date. The Network now encompasses 54 high schools with representation in Chicago, its surrounding suburbs, the Metro East region outside of St. Louis, and both Central and Southern Illinois.

The Democracy Schools Initiative stems from humble beginnings a decade ago when the first cohort of four high schools earned recognition. It was the brainchild of founding Illinois Civic Mission Coalition (ICMC) Chair Carolyn Pereira, who received seed money from the Carnegie Corporation to implement the recommendations of the Civic Mission of Schools report. Carolyn and the ICMC first considered developing a prototype civics course for replication throughout the state, but quickly pivoted to more of a school-wide focus, understanding that a singula…

Madison's First Amendment a Bulwark of Our Democracy

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by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
Sixteen years ago a large envelope arrived in the mail that forever changed the trajectory of my career. Inside, I was delighted to learn of my selection as the 2001 James Madison Fellow from my home state of Wisconsin. It entailed a scholarship for graduate school and a once-in-a-lifetime summer institute at Georgetown University, all of it centered on improving my understanding of and ability to teach the U.S. Constitution.


Thanks to the Madison Fellowship, I graduated with the masters degree in political science and pivoted immediately towards pursuit of my PhD. This journey included leaving the high school classroom eleven years ago, but my deep commitment to students’ civic development has been a constant ever since and inspired much of the work I’ve pursued at the McCormick Foundation and through the auspices of the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition.

This build-up is meant to introduce you to the Madison Fellowship and encourage you …

Teachers Still Processing 2016 Election Results with Students; Answers Remain Elusive

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by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
I spoke on Friday to a packed house at the 31st annual DuPage County Social Studies Conference held at Wheaton-Warrenville South High School. It’s the largest gathering of social studies teachers in the state (more than 800 registered this year) and an event I always look forward to attending.

As a teacher, I saw the DCSSC as one day a year when I got to be a student again. And as a presenter, it’s the one venue where all teachers are required to attend. It’s therefore an amazing opportunity to stand before a true cross-section of the local teaching profession.


Over the years, my best-attended sessions have been on elections and their aftermath, and last Friday’s was no exception. My guidance was broad, but I planned to unpack the 2016 Election results, lay out the current conditions for governance at the national and state level, and then pivot to engaging students in the policy making process. But I soon realized that some of these pla…

Future of the First Amendment Forecast Partly Cloudy with the Chance for Rain

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by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
The Trump presidency has simultaneously inspired a new protest movement and galvanized a press corps labeled “enemies of the people.” Both rely on constitutional protections embedded in the First Amendment, and a recent survey sheds light on students’ perspectives on the importance of the “five freedoms.”



According to the 2016 survey funded by the Knight Foundation titled “Future of the First Amendment,” student support is at a ten-year high. Ninety-one percent of high school students agreed that “people should be able to express unpopular opinions,” up from 83% in 2004.

Students and their teachers differ when asked if the “First Amendment goes too far in the rights it protects.” While 56% of students answered in the affirmative, three-fourths of teachers (75%) took the same position.

Nearly two-thirds of students (64%) believe that freedom of speech should prevail over “protecting someone from being offended.” But a majority of student…