Founding Civics Initiative

Bringing the best thinkers and ideas in the American political tradition to high school classrooms.

What is Founding Civics?

The JMC Founding Civics Initiative responds to a fundamental problem: our nation’s civics teachers have not had the chance to study America’s founding principles in depth.

Founding Civics introduces graduate courses and professional development for teachers that deepen their understanding of foundational texts and ideas in the American political tradition and help them develop curricula for their classrooms.

In 2016, the Harvey L. Miller Founding Civics Initiative was launched in Chicago. Since the three-year pilot project, the Founding Civics Initiative has expanded to New York City, Virginia, Wisconsin, Philadelphia, and Florida. Taught by JMC faculty partners, programs are conducted with area institutions and align to regional teacher incentives and state and local civics requirements.

The first JMC virtual seminar series concluded in May 2021! Check out the topics, professors, and readings for all twelve sessions here.

This summer, teachers across the state will participate in three Summer Institutes with partner Professors James M. Patterson (Ave Maria University) Kevin Wagner (Florida Atlantic University), and David Ramsey (University of West Florida).

Religious Freedom in America: Past and Present will explore the history of religious liberty in the United States from the colonial time period to the Civil Rights Movement to contemporary U.S. Supreme Court cases. This institute will take place at Ave Maria University on June 21-25.

The American Founding: Fresh Perspectives for 2021 will focus on founding principles like separation of powers and federalism and will also feature a series of sessions on Alexander Hamilton, the man and the musical. This institute will be held virtually on July 12-15.

American Constitutionalism and the Founding will take a broad look at founding principles, political parties, and the three branches of government throughout American history. This institute will be hosted at the University of West Florida on July 26-30.

Chicago serves as the model for all our regional efforts. Through a combination of graduate courses, summer seminars, and one-day events, our programs are leading to stronger civics instruction in the region. In just three years, surveys of all Chicago-area government teachers found that their use of Abraham Lincoln’s writings had increased by 46%, the Federalist Papers by 17%, and other writings of the Founders by 25%.

Since 2016, JMC has sponsored more than 29 seminars and graduate courses for teachers led by 20+ professors from our network. More than 220 teachers have participated.

We are excited to announce a new series of graduate courses at Lake Forest College! This summer, Professor Evan Oxman will teach American Political Thought for Chicago-area social studies teachers.

Programming will continue with the University of Chicago Graham School this summer. More details will be available soon.

JMC Partner Lynn Uzzell will be leading a weeklong summer institute for civics and history teachers June 21-25, 2021! Join fellow Virginia educators and study the founding, slavery and abolition, the Civil War, and social and ideological movements in American history. Applications are due April 1. Check out the details of The American Political Tradition seminar here.

In July 2020, Christopher Newport University’s Center for American Studies hosted a series of webinars for teachers that focused on women in American political history.

The Founding Civics Initiative is sponsoring a summer graduate course series at the University of Wisconsin-Madison beginning in 2021! The first course, History of American Political Thought will be taught by Jack Miller Assistant Professor Michelle Schwarze. The second course, which will run in summer 2022, will be taught by Professor John Zumbrunnen.

Partner Professor Ioannis Evrigenis will be leading two virtual courses in July 2021 through Tufts University. The first course, “Introduction to Civic Studies” will explore ethical, political, and theological frameworks for understanding how people can and should organize themselves to improve societies. The second course, “The Declaration of Independence” will focus on the debates surrounding the Declaration at the time it was written and how those debates have evolved since the eighteenth century.

In July 2019, JMC partnered with the National Constitution Center on two weeklong summer institutes for teachers. JMC sessions featured discussions on the development of the idea of separation of powers in the western intellectual tradition through key selections from thinkers including Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, John Adams, and James Madison. JMC is currently developing a series of graduate courses for teachers in the Philadelphia area.

2020 marked the third year of JMC’s partnership with New York City-based Civic Spirit. The online institute focused on civic belonging in the American political experience. Partner professors Roosevelt Montás, Andrew Delbanco, and Susan McWilliams Barndt lead the scholar sessions. Leveraging the online format, teachers from religious schools in Pennsylvania and Texas were able to join this year’s institute with those from New York City and New Jersey.

In addition to the summer institute, JMC offered a unique online graduate course, specifically designed for teachers through the City College of New York in the fall with Professor Daniel DiSalvo titled Confronting the Constitution. Teachers developed lesson plans based on primary documents and have already implemented them in their classrooms.