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Serving After Serving: Veterans in State Public Office

Are veterans in public office a vanishing breed? The composition of the state legislatures doesn’t tell such a story. Actually, it tells an entirely new story, since no one up to this point appears ever to have compiled the data on the military service backgrounds of state-level legislators.

Combing through publicly available sources regarding every member of every state legislature, the AEI Program on American Citizenship has gathered such information for the first time, to form a more comprehensive picture of the veteran composition of public office holders in 2016.

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AEI Event: The Court: Power, Policy, and Self-government

Judges must navigate between interpreting the Constitution and statutes, working within existing precedents and applying both bodies of law to particular cases. Striking this balance has policy consequences that render the Supreme Court a political branch in the public’s mind. As the heated debate over Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement demonstrates, the Court is no longer seen as the “least dangerous branch.”

How should justices address this tension in their decisions and opinions? Can the Court return to a narrower vision of its judicial duty? If not, what judicial philosophy best fits the reality of the Court’s role in a self-governing republic?

Join AEI for a timely discussion between Judge Brett Kavanaugh and The Wall Street Journal’s Paul Gigot, followed by an expert panel on the Court’s challenges in carrying out its duty to “say what the law is.”

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Reconsidering Women, the Draft, and the Duties of Citizenship Series

In principle, we aren’t merely flattering contemporary prejudices when we invoke the long history of republican women, from Lucrecia to Portia to modern Americans, to show that civic-minded, patriotic women strengthen self-governing nations. As long as our armed forces have existed, women have taken it upon themselves to serve honorably in or alongside of them, hiding their gender, seeing combat “unofficially,” or serving in support roles that have often involved bullets and capture by the enemy.

It’s heartening to think of women’s demonstrated potential both in their willingness to serve their country and their ability to do so. Should the occasion arise in future, we should hope for and celebrate women and men rising to the challenge. But neither the presidential candidates nor the nation is truly debating whether women can be called upon to serve their country. We are also not, actually, debating “The Draft”— military conscription.

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The Problem with Presidents and Heroes

The escalation of this Frank Underwoodization of government in general and the presidency in particular seems inevitable. But a study of our great statesmen-presidents of old shows with what tools they confronted the immense difficulties of their day and what was the measure of their success. That they were successful is born out by the endurance of the American project, one feature of which is the once every four-year ritual of electing a president. If that does not inspire confidence about the health of our democratic society, the continued observance of Washington’s Birthday at least ought to encourage us that it is not yet so fragile as the snow crusts of February.

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The Party of Trump: The Case for Principled Partisanship

As Edmund Burke, the founding father of the modern idea of party politics, understood, partisanship in government is inevitable. Without principled parties, however, men were bound to take advantage of that partisanship by appealing to the fears and hopes of citizens and doing so without offering up policies that might provide sound and stable government.

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One Person, One Vote: It’s more complicated than it sounds

Evenwell v. Abbott has the substance to be among the most important voting cases of the past 60 years—at its heart, it reaches beyond legalistic or judicial considerations of apportionment processes to pose the question to American society about how a free government acknowledges the political equality of its citizens.

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After Johnny’s Marched Home: Military Veterans and the Shaping of American Politics

With every major military conflict involving Americans the nation has reevaluated its relationship with the veteran, partly in consequence of the demands each specific war required it to lay upon the soldier in the first place. The changing face of industrialized society and the technologies of war as well as political thought have influenced each generation’s consensus…How veterans themselves have responded to their new status as citizen-soldiers turned soldier-citizens has traditionally reflected national attitudes. Beyond any affects of combat, the equation of individual civic duty and civic virtue and the nation’s reciprocal duty and virtue has influenced—although not dictated—veterans’ social and political behavior. Aside from the significant role citizen-soldiers fill in defending the country, citizen-veterans have played a defining role in the shaping of American political culture that has not been widely appreciated. The combined circumstances of the polarized electorate and the estimated already 2.6 million soldiers of the post-9/11 wars who have returned to civilian status recently—in private ceremonies on guarded bases far away from the public eye—highlight the value of a modest conceptual review of veterans and politics in America.

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2015 Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture: The Magna Carta, Due Process, and Administrative Power

Magna Carta is important, argued Philip Hamburger of Columbia Law School recently at AEI, not so much for what it says, but for what it reveals about the enduring danger of absolute power and the repeated constitutional responses in common law countries of its substitute, rule under law. Not only does Magna Carta allow us to trace the ebb and flow of absolute power and the law, but it also allows a proper understanding of due process of law.

Where today due process is most often thought of as a procedural protection for happenings in court, Hamburger invoked Magna Carta to show that due process is meant to also apply to outside the court, specifically administrative tribunals within administrative agencies. Tracing the development of due process from Magna Carta’s Article 39 through a series of 14th century statutes to the Fifth Amendment in the US Constitution, Hamburger argued that the Constitution’s due process clause was designed primarily to be an obstacle to administrative or extralegal adjudication. The prevalence of administrative power today, he concluded, denotes a practical evasion of due process and an evisceration of the entire concept, and that poses the gravest threat to the Bill of Rights.

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2015 Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture: The Magna Carta, Due Process, and Administrative Power

Is the Magna Carta still relevant? By the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell was already allegedly declaring, “Magna Carta, Magna Farta.” Numerous legal commentators today remain nearly as skeptical of its significance. Although no constitutional document is inherently timeless, Magna Carta stands as a reminder that some constitutional dangers do endure.

Please join us for the fourth annual Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture on Thursday, September 17, as Philip Hamburger, the Maurice and Hilda Friedman Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, considers recurring threats to the due process of law from extralegal power — what once was called prerogative power and today is called administrative power.

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Amy Kass, Friend and Teacher

August 21, 2015 | AEIdeas This week saw the passing of Amy Kass, longtime friend to AEI, wife of AEI scholar Leon Kass, and advocate for civic and American history education. We  pause to remember her and her inspiring and loving teaching.  Karlyn Bowman, Senior Fellow and Research Coordinator:  Though Amy Kass was not formally […]

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History in the Age of Fracture

Like so many of the disciplines making up the humanities, the field of history has for some time been experiencing a slow dissolution, a decline that may be approaching a critical juncture. Students of academic life express this decline quantitatively, citing shrinking enrollments in history courses, the disappearance of required history courses in university curricula, and the loss of tenurable faculty positions in all history-related areas.

But even more disturbing indications of history’s troubled status are harder to measure but impossible to ignore. One senses a loss of self-confidence, a fear that the study of the past may no longer be valuable or important and that history itself lacks the capacity to be a coherent and truth-seeking enterprise, producing genuine knowledge that helps us locate ourselves in the broad expanses of space and time. Some of this derives from the growing vocationalism in American higher education, flowing from a desire that a college degree should lead reliably to gainful employment. But the fear rests just as much on the belief that the road we have traveled to date offers us only a parade of negative examples of oppression, error, and obsolescence—proof positive that the past has no lessons applicable to our unprecedented age.

This loss of faith in the central importance of history pervades all of American society.

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Constitutional Statesmanship: A New Project of AEI’s Program on American Citizenship

Created by AEI’s Program on American Citizenship, the Constitutional Statesmanship e-curriculum is a rich source of materials compiled to aid both teacher and student in the classroom instruction and learning of American history, government, civics, and social studies. This collection of primary source documents paired with video discussions highlights constitutional themes and challenges as experienced by key statesmen in our history. It seeks to educate both hearts and minds about American political principles, ideals, identity, and national character, and the virtues and aspirations of our civic life.

Abraham Lincoln and the Constitution is the first topic in the ongoing Constitutional Statesmanship series.

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Raising the Bar for Civic Education

A new book, “Trendsetting Charter Schools,” edited by AEI’s Gary Schmitt and Cheryl Miller, makes the case that at a time of dwindling civic engagement and low voter turnout, teaching good citizenship is even more crucial. Rediscovering the civic mission of schooling is not at odds with the broader education reform movement, they explain. Rather, education reform can, and should, advocate for a more holistic vision, one which includes a robust citizenship curriculum that prepares students to be active participants in their communities and country.

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Civic Education Professional Development: The Lay of the Land

Democracy requires well-informed citizens, with the habits and mind-set required to maintain a free and self-governing society. Teachers, in turn, are key to establishing those habits of heart and mind on which democracies rely. As such, teachers benefit from exposure to professional development (PD) opportunities that refresh and augment their knowledge and classroom skills in the area of civics.

But education officials and policymakers face a host of competing priorities, and support for professional development in civics has has been limited. One crucial consequence is the lack of research regarding current civics PD programs. Accordingly, the AEI Program on American Citizenship set out to survey the providers of civics PD, delving into their purposes, methods, and views to create a first-ever overview of PD in civics.

This study revolves around an essential question: what is the nature and range of PD for secondary civics teachers in the United States? Our aim is to reveal a portrait of current practice through a combination of interviewing and surveying current civics PD providers and through reviewing the current literature on high-quality PD.

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Frederick Douglass on Lincoln and Emancipation

Before the Emancipation Proclamation, Frederick Douglass had been fiercely critical of Lincoln. But after Lincoln’s death, Douglass spoke appreciatively of Lincoln, praising his statesmanship in preserving the Union and emancipating slaves.

In this video, Diana Schaub, professor of political science at Loyola University-Maryland and Lucas Morel, professor of politics at Washington and Lee University, discuss in particular the April 14, 1876 speech Douglass delivered on the occasion of the dedication of the Freedmen’s Monument, which was the nation’s first statue of the slain president. Arguing that Lincoln had two goals in the recently ended war–to preserve the Union, and to emancipate the slaves–Douglass said that “but for the former, [Lincoln] could not do that latter.”

As Professor Morel notes, Frederick Douglass made a larger point to his audience and the nation about Lincoln’s statesmanship: Douglass used his oration to educate not just whites but blacks in terms of how politics could, and should, be done in a noble way.

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ICYMI: A Debate over Executive Power: Obama’s Immigration Decision

Did President Obama’s executive order on immigration exceed his constitutional authority? On Monday, January 12, AEI scholar Gary Schmitt took up the question with Ross Douthat and William Galston. The White House has claimed prosecutorial discretion as the basis for its decision, while critics, especially members of Congress, argue that the president is ignoring his core executive function of enforcing existing laws. Obama’s exercise of discretion raises the question of whether this is a reasonable interpretation of his constitutional obligation to faithfully execute laws or a violation of that duty.

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David Brooks on Walter Berns “Making Patriots”

Reviewing the late Walter Berns’s 2001 book, “Making Patriots” in the May 21, 2001 issue of the Weekly Standard, David Brooks commented that Berns wrestled with the problems of patriotism with wisdom and a penetrating insight. In examining and answering these challenges, Walter Berns, Brooks noted, “has done his part to help us make patriots.”

This is a vital task, Brooks notes, because “Americans still love their country, but schools no longer set out to inculcate patriotism as they once did. Indeed, it’s not just schools. Across our society, patriotism is tongue-tied, and nationalism, after all the horrors of the twentieth century, is suspect. These days, in short, patriotism is a problem. Most people just find it easiest to avoid the whole issue. They may stand at the playing of the national anthem, and they may tear up during the Olympics, but they store their patriotic emotions in the attic of their hearts. “

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Walter Berns, 1919-2015

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague Walter Berns, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 95. He was a distinguished scholar, a true patriot, and a deeply impressive man. As his former student, and then friend and colleague, Jeremy Rabkin, wrote introducing the website devoted to Bern’s work :

Walter Berns was a student of Leo Strauss at the University of Chicago in the early 1950s. Like a number of Strauss students of that era—notably, Martin Diamond, Harry Jaffa, and Herbert Storing—his work sought to apply the perspective of classical political philosophy to the study of American government and politics.

Almost all of Berns’ important publications reflect his appreciation of the classical view that “government” and “society” cannot be sharply separated. Both are closely related aspects of a political community’s way of life. Much of his writing reflects the classical view that democracy depends on the character of the citizens, so their opinions and beliefs, their personal habits and degree of self-discipline—in a word, their virtues—will matter to the prospects of democratic government.

Read More...

No Person is born already in love with his country, AP poll agrees

Sound citizens are a requirement for the practice of democracy. Creating sound citizens is predicated on inculcating sound character habits and dispositions through a variety of means. But even these worthy goals are insufficient if unaccompanied by efforts to cultivate within American citizens the appreciation of the value or worthiness of the American political order. Without an understanding of the pillars of the American way of life, there can be no firm attachment to or love of country. Citizens who lack an inner compulsion to invest in their regime are adrift not only from their community at large, but also from perpetuating its core principles and supporting institutions.

Read More...

Immigration and Representation

In the Weekly Standard, Program director Gary Schmitt and Rebecca Burgess write that in the debate over President Obama’s grant of amnesty to four or five million illegal immigrants, and concerns about the separation of powers, a vital principle of representative government has gone unremarked upon: Knitted to the issue is the question of the […]

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InTheMedia

The Problem with Presidents and Heroes

The escalation of this Frank Underwoodization of government in general and the presidency in particular seems inevitable. But a study of our great statesmen-presidents of old shows with what tools they confronted the immense difficulties of their day and what was the measure of their success. That they were successful is born out by the endurance of the American project, one feature of which is the once every four-year ritual of electing a president. If that does not inspire confidence about the health of our democratic society, the continued observance of Washington’s Birthday at least ought to encourage us that it is not yet so fragile as the snow crusts of February.

Read More...

The Party of Trump: The Case for Principled Partisanship

As Edmund Burke, the founding father of the modern idea of party politics, understood, partisanship in government is inevitable. Without principled parties, however, men were bound to take advantage of that partisanship by appealing to the fears and hopes of citizens and doing so without offering up policies that might provide sound and stable government.

Read More...

One Person, One Vote: It’s more complicated than it sounds

Evenwell v. Abbott has the substance to be among the most important voting cases of the past 60 years—at its heart, it reaches beyond legalistic or judicial considerations of apportionment processes to pose the question to American society about how a free government acknowledges the political equality of its citizens.

Read More...

After Johnny’s Marched Home: Military Veterans and the Shaping of American Politics

With every major military conflict involving Americans the nation has reevaluated its relationship with the veteran, partly in consequence of the demands each specific war required it to lay upon the soldier in the first place. The changing face of industrialized society and the technologies of war as well as political thought have influenced each generation’s consensus…How veterans themselves have responded to their new status as citizen-soldiers turned soldier-citizens has traditionally reflected national attitudes. Beyond any affects of combat, the equation of individual civic duty and civic virtue and the nation’s reciprocal duty and virtue has influenced—although not dictated—veterans’ social and political behavior. Aside from the significant role citizen-soldiers fill in defending the country, citizen-veterans have played a defining role in the shaping of American political culture that has not been widely appreciated. The combined circumstances of the polarized electorate and the estimated already 2.6 million soldiers of the post-9/11 wars who have returned to civilian status recently—in private ceremonies on guarded bases far away from the public eye—highlight the value of a modest conceptual review of veterans and politics in America.

Read More...

Walter Berns, 1919-2015

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague Walter Berns, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 95. He was a distinguished scholar, a true patriot, and a deeply impressive man. As his former student, and then friend and colleague, Jeremy Rabkin, wrote introducing the website devoted to Bern’s work :

Walter Berns was a student of Leo Strauss at the University of Chicago in the early 1950s. Like a number of Strauss students of that era—notably, Martin Diamond, Harry Jaffa, and Herbert Storing—his work sought to apply the perspective of classical political philosophy to the study of American government and politics.

Almost all of Berns’ important publications reflect his appreciation of the classical view that “government” and “society” cannot be sharply separated. Both are closely related aspects of a political community’s way of life. Much of his writing reflects the classical view that democracy depends on the character of the citizens, so their opinions and beliefs, their personal habits and degree of self-discipline—in a word, their virtues—will matter to the prospects of democratic government.

Read More...

No Person is born already in love with his country, AP poll agrees

Sound citizens are a requirement for the practice of democracy. Creating sound citizens is predicated on inculcating sound character habits and dispositions through a variety of means. But even these worthy goals are insufficient if unaccompanied by efforts to cultivate within American citizens the appreciation of the value or worthiness of the American political order. Without an understanding of the pillars of the American way of life, there can be no firm attachment to or love of country. Citizens who lack an inner compulsion to invest in their regime are adrift not only from their community at large, but also from perpetuating its core principles and supporting institutions.

Read More...

Immigration and Representation

In the Weekly Standard, Program director Gary Schmitt and Rebecca Burgess write that in the debate over President Obama’s grant of amnesty to four or five million illegal immigrants, and concerns about the separation of powers, a vital principle of representative government has gone unremarked upon: Knitted to the issue is the question of the […]

Read More...

The Dangers of Cutting Civics Testing

Last month, the “nation’s report card” eliminated civics testing for 4th and 12th graders under the auspices of budget cuts, while introducing new testing programs designed to assess students’ Internet literacy. In an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor, Gary Schmitt and Cheryl Miller explain why these cuts to civics education are so worrisome.

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Does Obama care that US students aren’t prepared to be citizens?

The US Department of Education’s decision to indefinitely postpone nearly all national exams in civics and US history eliminates the only objective gauge of whether students are learning basic US history and the essential skills needed to be good citizens. Sadly, we already know they aren’t.

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Can ROTC Solve Its Minority Problem?

In the Atlantic, Colin Daileda writes about the challenges the military faces in accessing minority officers—and how the return of big city ROTC can help. Daileda follows the progress of new ROTC units at schools affiliated with the City University of New York (CUNY) and notes how their success could lead to a more diverse officer corps.

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