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Lessons in Citizenship

Friday, April 19th, 2013

What-so-Proudly-Logo-revised-200In Philanthropy Magazine, Naomi Schaefer Riley writes about philanthropic efforts to strengthen civic learning in American schools. Riley highlights programs by the Gilder Lehrman Institute, the Bill of Rights Institute, and What So Proudly We Hail by AEI’s own Leon R. Kass and his wife Amy. About WSPWH, Riley writes:

Another new civic-education curriculum for secondary-school students (actually, three separate curricula) is What So Proudly We Hail. It was designed by former University of Chicago teachers Leon and Amy Kass, who are now fellows at the American Enterprise Institute and the Hudson Institute, respectively. “The last two years of high school are when you have young men and women who are mature and smart enough to read serious literature—and who are also coming of age as citizens,” says Eric Cohen, a philanthropic advisor to New York donor Roger Hertog, who helped fund the work.

The Kasses’ curricula aim to infuse some new life into the old standards of high-school education. One element, called “The American Calendar,” provides reading and discussion ideas for American holidays, from Veterans’ Day to Martin Luther King Day. By the time students reach high school, many teachers have run out of new things to say about these occasions and simply pass over them.

In another section, “The Meaning of America,” students are assigned a short story paired with a founding document. For instance, in a discussion about Jack London’s “To Build a Fire”—that old staple of high-school English—students learn not just that the story is an example of naturalism in American literature. They are also taught to ask questions about “the strengths and weaknesses of American individualism,” according to Cheryl Miller, who administers the program at AEI. As part of a segment on the American character, students also explore “what kind of citizens are likely to emerge in a nation founded on equality, individual rights, commercial enterprise, and freedom of religion.”

Read the whole thing.