The National Summit on Civic Education
We find ourselves at a critical moment. For too long our nation’s history and civics have been neglected in our schools, leaving them vulnerable to ideological movements in education. Often, leading actors in civic education reform either ignore or promote these troubling developments. Large numbers of Americans admit to discouragement, disappointment, or frustration about the state of our country, as shown in a Pew Research Center study of political attitudes released in September 2023.
At the same time, we have done little as a country to reverse our decades-long failure to prepare citizens for the responsibilities of self-government, and civic knowledge is on the decline. Scores in civics and history were significantly down in recent national tests – in fact, only 22 percent of eighth-graders scored high enough to be rated “proficient” according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress for civics.
But there is much hope.
In 2022, the Jack Miller Center gathered the leading organizations, practitioners, and philanthropists in the civic education movement for the inaugural National Summit on Civic Education at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. In 2023, the Jack Miller Center co-presented the Summit with the Union League Legacy Foundation and welcomed nearly 200 educators, practitioners, and funders to Philadelphia, continuing the success from 2022. The Summit not only guides us in thinking more deeply about the goals of American civic education, but fosters new connections between organizations, making us stronger as we work together.
Speakers and panelists offer insight on topics from the challenges K-12 teachers face and recent policy changes to the fundamentals of Constitutional education and the civic mission of universities. Some attendees have been working to improve civic education for many years, and others have come to this movement more recently because they see the need is so great. The Summit welcomes people from every part of the country, Republicans and Democrats and independents, bringing different perspectives and life stories together to tackle these problems.
The 2023 National Summit on Civic Education highlighted the interdependence of the K-12 system and institutions of higher education when it comes to civic education. Many of our nation’s colleges and universities have become mired in ideological movements, unmoored from their traditional civic missions. At the same time, we see state-level battles over civics and history instruction in K-12 that increasingly reflect the curricular battles that have long afflicted higher education. If we are to reground civic education in our nation’s founding principles, we must pursue reform both in higher education and K-12 and integrate these efforts.
When the Summit convenes in 2024, we hope even more leaders will join the conversation. Our meeting will be on the heels of what’s sure to be a historic and polarizing election. It will be more important than ever to find common ground when it comes to our civic dialogue, and the values we seek to pass along to the rising generation. We cannot allow the heat of political debate to alienate us from our shared purpose as a people. The values and principles of the American Founding are too precious to be monopolized by one side of the political aisle.
We also have an opportunity to build unity as we approach the 250th anniversary of American independence in 2026. Our remarkable republic has endured for so long because it is founded on eternal principles. This important anniversary is an occasion to lean into civics – indeed, the United States can only carry on into the future if we successfully impart the values of an enlightened patriotism to the rising generation.
The Summit is by invitation-only. Have questions? Want to learn more about attending in 2024? Please email Lauren Altobelli at email@example.com.
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