“Civic education is central to the perpetual renewal of American self-understanding,” E Pluribus Unum, the report of The Bradley Project on America’s National Identity, observed in 2008—as we noted earlier this year. “It promotes national identity and national unity by describing American democratic institutions, enumerating the obligations of citizenship, analyzing our founding documents, and reminding Americans not only of their rights but also of their responsibilities—to be informed, to vote, to serve on juries, to participate in voluntary associations.” According to The Bradley Project, “our shared allegiance to America and its principles is the foundation of civic education.”
“Civics education has been a problem forever, or so it seems,” however, education-reform expert and activist Checker Finn of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and the Fordham Institute correctly wrote late last year. “[I]f that problem feels more urgent today, it’s because so many are dismayed by the erosion of civility and good citizenship in today’s America, as well as mounting evidence that younger generations are both woefully ignorant in this realm … and losing faith in democracy itself.”
Finn nicely lauds the “heroic effort” of The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, led by its president Rajiv Vinnakota, to comprehensively “survey this sprawling field and try to make sense both of what’s underway today and how it might be done better tomorrow” in From a Civic Education to a Civic Learning System: A Landscape Analysis and the Case for Collaboration.
The ongoing project of which the report is a part is supported by the William & Flora Hewlett and Charles Koch Foundations. It offers general and specific advice, calls for increased collaboration among funders, and issues “an invitation to understand the problem and to bring people together.”
For those in philanthropy interested in understanding, promoting, and pursuing history and civics education, the Woodrow Wilson report is well worth the read—perhaps in conjunction with or in addition to this from the Education Week’s Research Center and this from the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center in 2018, maybe along with this from Fordham Institute vice president Robert Pondiscio and this Encounter Book from historian and Bradley Project contributor Wilfred McClay, among other things.
For those givers willing and able to also explore actual new or continued history- and civics-education support, “there’s no ringmaster for the civics circus and the zillion organizations active in the field have their own projects, strategies, and interests to sustain and defend,” Finn realistically notes, in what is a sober assessment of the area overall.
Some of those groups and activities are briefly overviewed in this one-page document—“Selected K-12 History- and Civics-Education Organizations and Projects (Updated)”—a revised version of one we featured earlier this year, lengthened to include more options. It newly includes a recently announced project of the RealClearFoundation, “American Civics,” for example, and the work of the Ashbrook Center and the National Association of Scholars.
All of the entries on the list are certainly worth consideration by grantmakers, of course—which is the original purpose behind its preparation and presentation—but many of them, especially those providing curricular content, may also be worth a look-see by any patriotic parents who have become involuntary headmasters of their own home “academies” and may just be trying to get to the end of the school year with children-students equally involuntarily “enrolled” in them during the coronavirus crisis.