March 2, 2020


Ensuring Civics Education for the Next Generation (Rob Bluey,  March 02, 2020, Daily Signal)

Bluey: Well, it is great to have you here in our studio. The Bill of Rights Institute is an organization that develops educational resources and programs for both teachers and students all across this great country. Tell our listeners more about your work and who you are reaching.

Bobb: The Bill of Rights Institute has been around for two decades. We're focused on supporting teachers in the really vital work of civics education.

There are hundreds of thousands of teachers that every day get up and think about, how do we give students a notion of freedom and opportunity? How do we teach them about the founding principles and address all of the current events that are in the news as well?

Civics was really a preoccupation of the Founding Fathers. They thought of it not as something that was the responsibility of the federal government so much, but the responsibility of communities.

Lately, I've been thinking about a quotation that Thomas Jefferson had when he said, "Citizenship is not just about voting one time a year, it's really an everyday thing. It's an everyday responsibility."

If you think of that idea, that notion of everyday citizenship, today we've sometimes reduced it to just voting and for kids kind of recycling or figuring out ways that you can get the government to do something and mobilize people.

I think the notion that we're really trying to do in the Bill of Rights Institute is very different. That's to say to students, "You have rights, you have responsibilities. What are you going to do to a noble civil society?"

Bluey: It seems that there is a growing interest and even a concern in our country over the lack of civics education. So you're certainly addressing that.

Just recently I read that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to have a test that high school students take. I know there's students in Rhode Island who are suing the state and the governor because they feel like they have a lack of civics education.

Tell us why it is that you're sensing this reaction from students or parents all across the country and how you're going about responding to it?

Bobb: There is a huge interest. I think it's really encouraging. ... We're really focused at the Bill of Rights Institute on reaching high school students, middle school students; supporting the teachers that every day take up the task of instructing students in American history, civics, and what's come to be known as social studies.

Students feel polarization in a different way than adults do. One of our students who attends a weeklong constitutional boot camp we run called the Constitutional Academy--it's here in the Washington D.C. area--said, "I wonder, can I disagree with my friends and will they still be my friends?"

So, one of the things I think that we're seeing is that teachers and students and then parents in the community are trying to grapple with, what is this thing, you can kind of feel it in the air that really bespeaks the division?

People are wondering, how do we get beyond that? Not to just some kind of kumbaya moment because I think the key thing here is, how do we learn to disagree amicably?

The Constitutional Convention was a remarkable meeting, it laid down some ground rules that said, "We're going to lay out a charter of our freedoms, we're going to take inspiration from the declaration."

For four months, the members of that convention debated things. They came out with what, sometimes by our textbooks, is characterized just as a bundle of compromises. ...

It's the same thing that we've seen happen this week on Capitol Hill, but, in fact, there was something really higher going on there, because what they were saying is, "Human beings have rights."The purpose of government is to protect those rights.

What I think we're feeling now is that many people are awakening to the fact that we've neglected this subject area in our schools, but even more, we've neglected to take it up as families, as communities ...

Posted by at March 2, 2020 12:00 AM


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