Showing posts from May, 2018

Add Your Voice to a National Field-Building Civic Learning Coalition

by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director The McCormick Foundation is proud to be a part of a national field-building coalition for change in civic learning. In February, our Board of Directors approved a $200,000 grant to iCivics , the leader of this coalition, and I have been subsequently asked to serve on its steering committee. This work launches at a perilous time, where democratic governance itself is increasingly considered a “bad” or “very bad” means to “run this country,” particularly among our youngest Americans. It builds upon the Democracy at a Crossroads Summit last September, which highlighted the aforementioned trends coupled with the marginalization of school-based civic learning, but also promising policy and funding responses in Florida and Illinois to reverse the latter trend. The conditions are ripe for an expansion of this work, with a strong group of civic learning leaders and a handful of foundations at the table. And a policy window is openin

Review: Flunking Democracy - Schools, Courts, and Civic Participation

by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director I was contacted last year by Michael Rebell , Executive Director of the Center for Educational Equity, based at Columbia University in New York, in an inquiry about the McCormick Foundation’s support for school-based civic learning in Illinois. Rebell has led and been involved in a number of state-based educational equity legal challenges, all of them centered in discriminatory funding practices that too often discriminate against students of color and those of lower socio-economic standing. Some of these challenges resulted in court-ordered funding increases, but the judicial decisions were mostly agnostic as to what educational equity looks like in practice. While writing Flunking Democracy (University of Chicago Press, 2018) , he came across compelling research demonstrating a “ civic empowerment gap ” partly rooted in disparate school-based civic learning opportunities. Most state constitutions make passing reference

Guest Blog: Socrates, The Power of Questions

by Dan Fouts, Maine West High School Dan Fouts teaches AP Government, Philosophy and US history in the Chicagoland area. His blog, Socrates Questions , shares how students can use “big questions” to shape inquiry, aligning with the new Illinois Social Studies standards . In this guest blog, Dan discusses the importance of using “big questions” in the classroom.   Socrates believed that the purpose of education is to facilitate the self-discovery of others through questioning. Smart use of questions, combined with relentless critical thinking, lead us to see knowledge as a continuous journey to understanding. As more individuals embark on this journey, the quality of our civic discussions improves and we become a more just society. Fortunately, Socrates' mission is gaining great traction in today’s reform environment. Common Core, teacher evaluation frameworks and the recently published C3 Framework standards for social studies all in some way promote the value of teach

Is Citizen the Right Word?

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Lead Teacher Mentor Last month, I had the privilege to facilitate vertical articulation in a suburban school district around the new Illinois Social Studies standards . To create a common vision for this work, I asked the teachers in the room a simple question, “What is the purpose of social studies?” The word cloud below illustrates the results. As the participants began to wordsmith the items in the cloud to create a cohesive mission statement, a question emerged, “What do we mean when we say social studies prepares students to be citizens?” The 2011 Guardian of Democracy Report: The Civic Mission of Schools made the case the civic education was NOT a political issue, rather, an endeavor that both sides of the spectrum could embrace. The loss of quality civic education from so many of our classrooms has left too many young Americans without the most basic knowledge of who our forefathers are, or the significance of the founding documents, […a