Civics360: A New Resource for Civic Education

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Good morning, friends in Civics. Over the past few years, teachers here in Florida and elsewhere in the United States have made heavy use of the Escambia Civics Review Site. We do believe that the partnership with Escambia County and the willingness of that district to host and share resources for teaching and learning has been beneficial for everyone. Over time, however, requests have been made and ideas contemplated about improvements that could be made to make that site even better. These requests and ideas include more student friendly videos, more helpful assessment tools, and resources for ESOL students and struggling readers. With that in mind, the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship, in partnership with Escambia County Schools,  is excited to announce the launching of a new Civics review site that will, later this summer, replace the currect Escambia Civics Review Site: Civics360. Civics360 is free to all registered users, much like our current Florida Citizen website. This site is now live and available for your use.

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So what are the new features you will find in Civics360? Take a look at the orientation video below, which walks you through the registration process, and read the rest of the post to learn about what we hope will be a useful resource for you and your students.

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A Conversation on Voting and Voting Rights at the University of Central Florida

fine eventAt the end of October, the Lou Frey Institute’s Dr. Terri Susan Fine will be discussing voting and voting rights at Ferrell Commons on the UCF campus. This is an important discussion, especially if you consider that for many, voting is one of the most important (though far from only!) elements of effective civic engagement. This event is targeting UCF students, but the general public is welcome to attend. We hope that you will join us for what will no doubt be an engaging and lively conversation!

The event will occur Friday, 27th Oct 17, at 1pm, in Ferrell Commons Room 165.

Florida Gubernatorial Candidates to Speak at Upcoming State Social Studies Conference!

Our friends from the Florida Council for the Social Studies want to remind you of the upcoming conference!
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We are eagerly anticipating the exciting events planned for the 60th Annual Florida Council for the Social Studies Conference in Palm Harbor October 20 -22!

If you have already registered, you can look forward to these highlights:

  • The debut of the FCSS Time Machine, the opening reception for this years conference. During this time we encourage all attendees to dress to theme with a style from a decade in which FCSS has celebrated with an annual conference. (1958 to Present)
    decades
  • Over 80 exciting and meaningful sessions to support social studies educators in strengthening professional practices and engaging students in honoring the past, preserving the present and shaping the future. Please review the session matrix (available here:  2017 FCSS Session Descriptions)   to explore all of the wonderful session opportunities available to attend on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Saturday Mentor Session for supporting and recruiting knowledgeable and skillful social studies teachers, this session will provide educators with invaluable insights into professional practice.
  • Saturday General Session where attendees will have the opportunity to shape the future through a discussion with Florida Gubernatorial candidates focused on the shared commitment to the mission of Social Studies.
  • Free luncheon provided for all attendees with an interactive learning component sponsored by Studies Weekly.
  • Sunday keynote speaker who will provide an interactive experience with the opportunity to implement differentiated learning strategies to improve social studies achievement for English Language Learners and all students.
  • ​This is just a brief sampling of the jam packed weekend planned to nurture and support all social studies educators and advocates. ​

Haven’t registered yet? There is STILL time to secure your attendance for this exciting conference. Go to the FCSS website at http://fcss.org/meetinginfo.php, scroll down to the blue register now link, and register for the conference.

Looking forward to seeing everyone in Palm Harbor!
The Florida Council for the Social Studies Conference Committee

Building on #CivX: The Former Members of Congress Take the First Step

Recently, we wrote about the CivX Summit in Washington, DC, where the Lou Frey Institute was recognized for the work it has done to build a quality civic education program in Florida. The summit closed with a call to arms, a recognition of the need that there needs to be more than simple talk when it comes to the vital need for engaging, action oriented, student focused civics. This cannot happen without those with the power to implement change actually doing so. This includes those we have placed in positions of respect and governance, such as our Congresspeople. Thus, it gives us great pleasure to learn that action has begun. The following was placed into the Congressional Record on the 27th of September:

Our last new development should be highlighted: we are issuing to our
Members a call to action on the crucially important aspect of civic
education. We have formed a partnership with the Lou Frey Institute at
the University of Central Florida. As you are surely aware, civic
education has been one of the most important issues our dear friend Lou
Frey has worked on since leaving Congress, and his institute has become
a leading voice on this topic in my home State of Florida. Included in
this partnership is the Civic Mission of Schools, which works hand in
hand with the civic education initiative of Justice Sandra Day
O’Connor.
We envision an extremely active role for former Members to play at
the State level to be an advocate for civic education. Florida, of
course, is a great example on how civics can be restored if there is a
bipartisan consensus and commitment to make it happen.
In addition to this partnership, I am proud to share with you that we
are in the process of taking our highly successful model of the
international Congressional Study Groups and translating it for the
first time to a domestic issue: the Congressional Study Group on
Civics.

What does this mean, outside of the lovely words and promises? It means that the Association of Former Members of Congress will be collaborating with the Lou Frey Institute at the University of Central Florida and our wonderful friends at the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools to work on models of civic education policy and implementation, drawing on the lessons learned from the good work done in Florida. Whether that means creating versions of the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship in other states, or taking a different approach, has yet to be determined. One of the key points made at the CivX Summit, after all, was that situations in every state are unique and call for unique approaches. It could be the Florida model, it could be the Illinois model, or it could be something completely different. What matters is that the banner has been hoisted, the battle engaged, and fight for quality civic education programs across the 50 states has begun in earnest. These men and women, our former elected leaders, are going to be doing there part, and we will work to hold them to it.

What will you do to make a difference? Take the #CivX pledge now, and join the battle. Civic education has never been more important, no matter the ideological divide that separates us.

The CivX Summit: Working to Prioritize Civics for the 21st Century.

CivX
Last week, at the Newseum in Washington, DC, the Lou Frey Institute at the University of Central Florida, in collaboration with our friends at iCivics, Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, and the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University, hosted the Democracy at a Crossroads: Our Nation’s Future Needs Innovative Civic Learning Now meeting of civic educators, thinkers, and leaders from across the country (including a number of high school and college students!). Better known, perhaps, as the CivX Summit, the event featured speakers from across the political spectrum and the civics education community.

What was the point of the summit? Why did all of these smart, dedicated people get together to talk about civics? The point, really, was to stress, on a national stage, why civics matters, and to encourage those with the power and ability to do something about civics to actually do it. The summit’s ‘jumping off point’ was the recently released white paper from Peter Levine and Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg of Tisch’s College of Civic Life. Throughout the day, speakers discussed the idea of ‘civic deserts’ and the impact they have on our society and on generations of Americans. They discussed why our discourse has perhaps become so degraded, pointing to a growing ‘Big Sort’ as a reason why Americans increasingly demand so-called ‘safe spaces’ for their views, left or right, and view ‘the other side’ as an obstacle and potential enemy, instead of just another American with a different idea.

A significant element of the ongoing conversation was what 21st century civics should look like. We know what it looks like; research has shown, consistently, what most engages students in civic life and civic learning: the Six Proven Practices. These practices (classroom instruction on relevant topics, deliberations on current events and controversial issues, service learning, student-led groups, student voice in schools, and simulations of democratic practices), however, demand additions. To address the severe issues we face in teaching and learning civics, the discussion at the summit emphasized the importance of 21st century news media literacy education, an action civics model, a consideration of social and emotional learning, and school climate reform.  You can read more about these important additions to the Six Proven Practices in the white paper.

Let’s consider that idea of school climate for a moment. It is, indeed, an area that has gotten a great deal of attention lately, and not always for the better. And in many cases, we do not often think about the connection between civics instruction and school climate. But one of the most powerful moments in the entire day was when we listened to the voice of a student. A young African American woman from a local DC high school, during a heated discussion of ‘the realities of school discipline and climate’, stood up and shared, with a great deal of power and emotion, why her peers are afraid to speak up, afraid to be involved in civic life in their schools and communities, afraid to be the active citizens they deserve to be. It was a powerful moment, and emphasized the importance of student voice in any consideration of civic education reform.

An additional important focus, especially relevant here in Florida, was the role of stakeholders within the state policy apparatus. Both Florida and Illinois were held up as examples of what can happen when the stakeholders get heard and when civics is given the priority it deserves. The recent work of our friends at McCormick, spearheaded by the incredible Dr. Shawn Healy, placed civic education well up the educational ladder in Illinois. At the same time, the work of Congressman Lou Frey and Senator Bob Graham in Florida, in collaboration with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Dr. Doug Dobson (Executive Director of the Lou Frey Institute) and educators across the state to establish civics as a legislative and educational priority was featured. It was a proud moment for us here at the Lou Frey Institute at the University of Central Florida Florida Joint Center for Citizenship, as Congressman Frey and Senator Graham were recognized for their work. You can view the video below to get some sense of the work that has been done in this state. Civics matters in Florida.


The highlight of the event was without a doubt a conversation with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. It was a powerful conversation, wide ranging over a number of civic topics, from cameras in the courtroom to engaging in civil discourse across ideological divides, and the justice was sure to engage directly with the high school and college students in the audience. It was a powerful moment, and emphasized for us the importance and impact of government officials engaging with students. 

It was, truly, an exciting opportunity to discuss the future of civics education in the United States. Now, the next step is to ensure that the conversation does not stop, and that it results in action. Let us all make that happen. Take the CivX Pledge, and commit to making a difference in your community and in civic life.

You can read more about the CivX Summit in the articles below:

Education Week: Justice Sotomayor at the Summit

 

American Founders’ Month (and Freedom Week) in Florida: George Mason

Sept 29 Mason
It’s American Founders’ Month (and Freedom Week!) in Florida. Today, on the last day of Freedom Week, we have one of the most important, but perhaps least remembered, Founders: George Mason.

Why does George Mason matter? After all, he was one of only three delegates to the Convention of 1787 who refused to sign the Constitution. But it is, indeed, that very refusal that tells us why George Mason matters: He is the Father of the Bill of Rights. It was Mason’s vocal objections, and his work on the Virginia Declaration of Rights, that led to the drafting and incorporation of the Bill of Rights into our Constitution.

Even with the promise from the Federalists to include a Bill of Rights, Mason fought hard against ratification of the Constitution; his arguments failed to persuade enough Virginians to vote against ratification however. And his fervent and sometimes angry opposition to the Constitution in some ways destroyed his relationships with those who he fought beside for independence. In a letter to his son, he wrote that

You know the friendship which has long existed (indeed from our early youth) between General Washington and myself. I believe there are few men in whom he placed greater confidence; but it is possible my opposition to the new government, both as a member of the national and of the Virginia Convention, may have altered the case.

Indeed, Washington himself was bitter about Mason’s opposition, and they never reconciled before Mason’s death in 1792. Despite his opposition to the Constitution, however, is to George Mason that most Americans owed their first tastes of liberty under the new government and his Bill of Rights. You can learn more about George Mason from this excellent lesson provided by the Bill of Rights Institute. 

Grab the PowerPoint slide featured at the top of this post: George Mason AFM

Additional entries in the American Founders’ Month series:
Introduction to the Founding Fathers
Who Was George Washington?
Abigail Adams: Founding Mother and so much more
John Adams: A Hero of Liberty
James Madison: Father of the Constitution
The Sons of Liberty: The Tea Party and More
Mercy Otis Warren: Antifederalist and Advocate for Liberty
Alexander Hamilton: More Than a Musical
George Middleton: An Early Leader for Civil Rights and Equality
Patrick Henry: Liberty or Death
Thomas Jefferson: A Complex Man
Phillis Wheatley: Poet
Judith Sargent Murray: Fighter for Women

American Founders’ Month in Florida: Judith Sargent Murray

Sept 28 Murray
American Founders’ Month (and Freedom Week!) continues in Florida. Today, let’s take a look at one of the earliest advocates for women’s rights in our young nation’s history: Judith Sargent Murray.

Judith Sargent Murray was born in pre-Revolutionary Boston, the daughter of a well-to-do merchant family. It as fortunate for us, as it was for her, that her parents believed in educating their daughters as well as their sons. Unfortunately, this education was limited to reading and writing; Sargent Murray had little opportunity for advanced education. Instead, she took advantage of her father’s vast library and educated herself in history, civics, philosophy, literature, and so much more. This education, so much of it self-taught, she put to work as a writer and thinker and, most importantly, advocate for the rights of women and the equality of the sexes.

For Judith Sargent Murray, the way in which we consider the roles and educations of boys and girls was unjust, stifling, and wrong. In her seminal work, ‘On the Equality of the Sexes‘ (1790), she raises doubts about the argument that men are inherently the intellectual superiors to women:

“Yet it may be questioned, from what doth this superiority, in thus discriminating faculty of the soul proceed. May we not trace its source in the difference of education, and continued advantage?…As their years increase, the sister must be wholly domesticated, while the brother is led by the hand through all the flowery paths of science”

In other words, the only reason men can claim superiority to women is because we do not give women the same education and opportunities as men! This theme would reappear throughout her work over the years, and she never ceased believing that America offered a great opportunity for a reconsideration of the role and education of girls. The new nation, after all, needed women who would raise the next generation to believe in and understand the American spirit and model, a ‘Republican motherhood‘ that required educated, passionate, and (to a degree for its day) liberated women.

Sargent Murray practiced what she preached, educating the children in her house as she believed they deserved and as was right. She also wrote hundreds of essays and letters and articles, many of which were published under pen names in such a way as to hide the fact that she was a woman, for she feared her arguments would be automatically rejected. She was a ‘Founding Mother’ of the pursuit of equal rights, an advocate for the American project, and someone who encouraged the new nation to live up to the ideals it promised. You can learn more about the wonderful Judith Sargent Murray from this excellent lesson.

Grab the PowerPoint featured at the top of this post: Judith Sargent Murray AFM

Additional entries in the American Founders’ Month series:
Introduction to the Founding Fathers
Who Was George Washington?
Abigail Adams: Founding Mother and so much more
John Adams: A Hero of Liberty
James Madison: Father of the Constitution
The Sons of Liberty: The Tea Party and More
Mercy Otis Warren: Antifederalist and Advocate for Liberty
Alexander Hamilton: More Than a Musical
George Middleton: An Early Leader for Civil Rights and Equality
Patrick Henry: Liberty or Death
Thomas Jefferson: A Complex Man
Phillis Wheatley: Poet

American Founders’ Month and Freedom Week: Phillis Wheatley

Sept 27 Wheatley

American Founders’ Month (and Freedom Week) continues in Florida. Today, we look at an early voice of patriotism, liberty and hope: Phillis Wheatley.

Wheatley was born in Africa and enslaved as a young girl, sold to a wealthy Boston merchant family. There, she was educated, in the classics and in history and philosophy, discovering the joy of writing. She became a poet, recognized in London and in Boston for her prose. Indeed, her poetry inspired even other poets to write poems in her honor! She was, eventually, emancipated as a young woman, freed from the confines of slavery. Her writing continued, her prose celebrating the Revolution and its leaders, her Christian faith, her love of life and freedom, and the struggles against slavery. Sadly, Phillis Wheatley died very young, at about the age of 31, and her voice, one of the first and strongest African-American voices in our early history, was silenced. But we still have her poetry, and you can learn more about Phillis Wheatley and her celebrated poetry in this wonderful lesson.

Grab the PowerPoint slide featured at the top of this post: Phillis Wheatley AFM

Additional entries in the American Founders’ Month series:
Introduction to the Founding Fathers
Who Was George Washington?
Abigail Adams: Founding Mother and so much more
John Adams: A Hero of Liberty
James Madison: Father of the Constitution
The Sons of Liberty: The Tea Party and More
Mercy Otis Warren: Antifederalist and Advocate for Liberty
Alexander Hamilton: More Than a Musical
George Middleton: An Early Leader for Civil Rights and Equality
Patrick Henry: Liberty or Death
Thomas Jefferson: A Complex Man

American Founders’ Month (and Freedom Week!) in Florida: Thomas Jefferson

Sept 25 Jefferson

American Founders’ Month (and Freedom Week) continues in Florida. Today, we look at Thomas Jefferson. Out of all of the Founders’, it may be Thomas Jefferson that most schoolchildren are most familiar with. They know him, of course, as the author of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration, of course, is considered on of the clearest rebukes of tyranny ever written, and it remains to this day a symbol of the pursuit of liberty the world over.

Like many of his peers, however, Jefferson was a man of massive contradictions. An advocate for liberty who owned a great many slaves, a slaveowner who recognized the evils of slavery (‘the rock upon which the Union would split’) but never freed his own slaves (unlike his colleague and friend George Washington, who freed his own upon his death), an opponent of an activist and strong central government who nevertheless used his power to purchase vast swathes of land from the French (despite his doubts about whether the Constitution gave him that power), and a believer in the importance of civility and comity in politics and life who was involved in one of the most brutal presidential campaigns in American history.

Thomas Jefferson was indeed many things, some good, some bad, but all important to the legacy of freedom and the Founders of this country. As one of his successors as president, John F. Kennedy, once said while hosting a dinner for Nobel Prize winners,

I want to tell you how welcome you are to the White House. I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.
Someone once said that Thomas Jefferson was a gentleman of 32 who could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, and dance the minuet.

Log in and learn more about Thomas Jefferson from this excellent lesson provided by our friends at iCivics! 

You can grab the PowerPoint featured at the top of this post here: Thomas Jefferson AFM

Additional entries in the American Founders’ Month series:
Introduction to the Founding Fathers
Who Was George Washington?
Abigail Adams: Founding Mother and so much more
John Adams: A Hero of Liberty
James Madison: Father of the Constitution
The Sons of Liberty: The Tea Party and More
Mercy Otis Warren: Antifederalist and Advocate for Liberty
Alexander Hamilton: More Than a Musical
George Middleton: An Early Leader for Civil Rights and Equality
Patrick Henry: Liberty or Death

American Founders’ Month in Florida: Patrick Henry

Sept 23 or 24 Henry

American Founders’ Month continues in Florida, and it coincides with Freedom Week. There may be no quote more famous in our nation’s history than Patrick Henry’s “…give me liberty or give me death!” It is perhaps an appropriate way to start off our celebration of Freedom Week as we wrap up American Founders’ Month.

Patrick Henry, like many of his peers, was a man of many talents, beliefs, and contradictions. He was a brilliant orator, fiery and powerful, but few of his speeches survived him, as he rarely wrote anything down. Unlike his contemporaries, he did not write many letters, so we have few primary sources to consider him with. A passionate advocate for liberty, he was, like many of his elite contemporaries from the South, a slave holder. Like many of them (though not all!) he recognized the evils of slavery without necessarily choosing a path towards his own complicity. A believer in strong bonds across the states, he was embittered by what he saw as New England’s reluctance to contribute fairly to the national project under the Articles of Confederation.

His passion for liberty led Henry initiallt to the Anti-Federalist camp; he did not trust those working in Philadelphia at the constitutional convention, and he did not trust the new Constitution.

 This Constitution is said to have beautiful features; but when I come to examine these features, Sir, they appear to me horribly frightful: Among other deformities, it has an awful squinting; it squints towards monarchy: And does not this raise indignation in the breast of every American? Your President may easily become King: Your Senate is so imperfectly constructed that your dearest rights may be sacrificed by what may be a small minority; and a very small minority may continue forever unchangeably this Government, although horridly defective: Where are your checks in this Government? Your strong holds will be in the hands of your enemies: It is on a supposition that our American Governors shall be honest, that all the good qualities of this Government are founded: But its defective, and imperfect construction, puts it in their power to perpetrate the worst of mischiefs, should they be bad men

Ultimately, however, he sided with the Federalists, in part because of rivalry with his fellow Virginian Thomas Jefferson. He is, without a doubt, a good person to begin this Freedom Week with. You can learn more about Patrick Henry’s famous ‘give me liberty’ speech with this close reading plan here!

Grab the PowerPoint slide featured in this post: Patrick Henry AFM

Additional entries in the American Founders’ Month series:
Introduction to the Founding Fathers
Who Was George Washington?
Abigail Adams: Founding Mother and so much more
John Adams: A Hero of Liberty
James Madison: Father of the Constitution
The Sons of Liberty: The Tea Party and More
Mercy Otis Warren: Antifederalist and Advocate for Liberty
Alexander Hamilton: More Than a Musical
George Middleton: An Early Leader for Civil Rights and Equality

American Founders’ Month in Florida: George Middleton

Sept 22 Middleton
American Founders’ Month in Florida continues! Today, we will meet George Middleton. Colonel Middleton was one of the leaders of the African-American community in Revolutionary-era Boston, and helped established a predominately African-American militia during the war. This militia, known as ‘The Protectors’, helped defend property and people in Massachusetts throughout the war.

Colonel Middleton was also a strong advocate for the rights of African-Americans in the new United States. Whether fighting against slavery and for civil and political rights or equal opportunities for education for African-American children, Middleton is a role a model for citizens in the nation, then and now.

“Freedom is desirable, if not, would men sacrifice their time, their property and finally their lives in the pursuit of this?”

Middleton’s words ring true today. As we enter Freedom Week, it is important that we remember and recognize all of those that have lived those words throughout our history.

You can learn more about George Middleton from the National Park Service and see his home if you visit the Black Heritage Trail in Boston!

Grab the PowerPoint slide at the top of this post here: George Middleton AFM

Additional entries in the American Founders’ Month series:
Introduction to the Founding Fathers
Who Was George Washington?
Abigail Adams: Founding Mother and so much more
John Adams: A Hero of Liberty
James Madison: Father of the Constitution
The Sons of Liberty: The Tea Party and More
Mercy Otis Warren: Antifederalist and Advocate for Liberty
Alexander Hamilton: More Than a Musical