<< Home

Projects

Event (March 28): Going A-Courting: The Senate, the Presidency, and the Gorsuch Confirmation Process

The Constitution calls for the president to nominate Supreme Court justices, but requires “the advice and consent of the Senate” to appoint them. What standards ought to guide senators in giving that consent? How much deference should the Senate show to the president’s choice? Is there a meaningful distinction today between partisan politics and competing visions for how a justice fulfills his duties? How does the confirmation process exemplify both the distinct powers and responsibilities of the different branches and the coordination required for functional government?

Join AEI on Tuesday, March 28, 2017 for a conversation with Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, followed by a panel of experts, who will discuss the confirmation process of Judge Neil Gorsuch in light of these questions.

Read More...

Event: Making citizens: A ‘Sputnik moment’ for civic education?

Did the 2016 presidential election represent a “Sputnik moment” for civic education? Voices on the right and left critiqued the recent election as proof of the failure of civic education — what the Founding Fathers and succeeding generations argued was the basic purpose of education. But if we revitalize civic education, we need to understand what has gone wrong and how current classroom, state, and national policies are shaping not just civic education, but the very principles of what it means to be a citizen capable of reflective self-government.

Please join AEI as a panel of educators and scholars discuss the state of civic education at the primary and secondary education levels and how our education system can become serious about making citizens once more.

Read More...

Event: The Imperial Presidency in the Age of Trump

Executive power has expanded so steadily under both Republican and Democratic presidents that the epithet “imperial” is regularly applied to the presidency. President Obama’s aggressive use of unilateral powers led many conservatives to call for a more assertive Congress and Supreme Court to curtail this expansive employment of executive authority. But these same conservatives now face a new president, Donald Trump, who appears equally prepared to use the powers of the bully pulpit to achieve his policy goals.

Is the imperial presidency now a permanent fact of American life? How should today’s constitutionalist think about the presidency’s role in governance at home and in light of America’s role in the world? Join AEI for a timely discussion on the foundations and proper use of presidential power.

Read More...

Fifth Annual Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture with Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey: Terrorism and the Bill of Rights

The United States finds itself the target of terrorists who are incited by, and think their actions justified by, their religious beliefs. This has created a profound tension between the country’s commitment to religious freedom and the tools the government uses to provide its citizens security. Is the tension real? Does the Bill of Rights prevent the government from adopting measures necessary to keep our homes, places of business, and public spaces safe?

Please join us for the annual Walter Berns Constitution Day lecture as Michael B. Mukasey, former US district judge and US attorney general, explores whether Americans have had to surrender fundamental rights so their country can protect itself from Islamist terrorism.

Read More...

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.

Read More...

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.

Read More...

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.

Read More...

Physician, Heal Thyself: Doctors in a Pluralist Democracy

Today’s physicians are a beleaguered bunch. They find themselves attempting to satisfy multiple conflicting demands, morally adrift, spiritually depleted, and politically powerless. They have become trapped in a vice, squeezed between the grips of the market and government, with no apparent escape. Public trust in US physicians is at an historic nadir, with the United States ranking 24th among 30 industrialized nations, ahead only of Chile, Bulgaria, Russia, and Poland. Morale is at an all-time low. Many are leaving the practice. Only a minority would recommend that their children become physicians.

Yet all this is happening at a time when medical care occupies a proportion of the economy that exceeds even defense, and when physicians’ technical powers and skills have never been greater. Smallpox has been eradicated. Breast cancer has become a chronic disease. Robots perform surgery. Life expectancy in the developed world is approaching biblical standards. Medicine seems so powerful.

And medicine’s cultural reach is as broad as it is deep. Medicine now colors nearly everything about our lives.

Read More...

Getting Civics Right

Citizenship education among American youth ought to be studied more systematically, more thoroughly, and with greater resources than it is at present. With that premise, the objective of this report is to outline what a full-fledged study of civic education among US high school students would require.

The particular focus in this report is on research that can inform policymakers about what public policies affect the quality of civic education. This specific focus is warranted because, to date, civic education receives far more lip service than meaningful attention within the education policy community…Simply put, there is much we do not know about the consequences of policies regarding civics. Does including civics among graduation requirements affect young people’s civic knowledge? Does the inclusion of civics among tested subjects in high-stakes exams help or hinder civic education? Do charter or magnet schools provide qualitatively different—whether better or worse—civic education than traditional public schools? These are the types of basic questions that we do not yet know how to answer.

Read More...

America’s Military Profession: Creating Hectors, not Achilles

America’s Military Profession: Creating Hectors, not Achilles
By Aaron MacLean
(October 2014)

The military provides a clear benefit to the American polity: it is the country’s federal mechanism for the common defense. But what is its relationship to America’s civic culture? Do the professionals the military molds and employs in the nation’s wars affect the civic culture positively, as models of necessary virtues and keepers of specialized professional knowledge necessary to a healthy civic life? Or do they affect the culture negatively, as damaged and occasionally dangerous men perverted by violence?

…A regular corollary of polities with endemic political instability is not only poverty but also a high rate of underemployed young men. Young men tend to be not only aggressive but also honor seeking—that is, they desire the recognition of society. The military provides a well-designed path to that recognition, and works to return these young people back to society with their aggressive instincts melded with a sense of outward-focused duty. The US military makes Hectors, and works to keep Achilles off the streets.

Read More...

Putting civics to the test: The impact of state-level civics assessments on civic knowledge

In sharp contrast to the large literature on assessments’ effects regarding math and reading, very few studies have examined what effect, if any, statewide assessments in civics and related subjects have on civic education. And to the extent that there has been any research on state-level policies regarding civic education—including but not limited to assessments—these studies have concluded that these policies have no discernible effect on civic attitudes and behavior.[5] Yet these studies are few, so notwithstanding their null findings, this paper proceeds from the premise that the issue is not yet settled and thus poses the question anew: do civics assessments matter for civic education?

Read More...

The Practice of Science in a Democratic Society

The Practice of Science in a Democratic Society
By Austin L. Hughes
(March 2014)

René Descartes, one of the founding figures of modern science, predicted that the new mechanistic approach to understanding the natural world would yield great benefits for humanity, particularly with regard to improving health and longevity. For this reason, Descartes argued that public funds should be used to support scientific research. Descartes proved to be prophetic on both counts. The benefits of science have far exceeded anything Descartes could have imagined, and the public funding of science has become an accepted role of government in every industrially advanced nation. The result has been the creation of a new profession—that of scientist—unknown to Descartes and his contemporaries, whose scientific investigations remained the self-supported avocations of gentlemen of independent means.

The general public and their elected representatives seem to agree that scientific research is an important, even necessary, component of a modern economy. But the scientific profession is not without its contradictions. Government funding of science is justified by the argument that scientific research benefits the public, but modern science has become so technical and specialized that the public are rarely able to appreciate the potential value of the research their taxes fund. Scientific literacy remains low even in the most technologically advanced societies. The fact that science is mysterious to the general public has helped endow its practitioners with an aura of wonder in the popular mind. As a result, scientists have increasingly become accustomed to thinking of themselves as constituting an all-knowing elite that need answer to few or none.

Read More...

Being a Part of a People: Ridgeview Classical Schools

Being a Part of a People: Ridgeview Charter Schools and Civic Education
By William Gonch
(February 25, 2014)

Early on a crisp Thursday morning at Colorado’s Ridgeview Classical Schools, eighth-graders in Mr. Binder’s American Literature class are presenting on Benjamin Franklin. The students have read the first and second parts of Franklin’s Autobiography, and today they are speaking about Franklin’s “table of virtues,” the famous passage in which he selects 13 virtues he hopes to develop by tracking his progress, each day, in practicing them.

Each student explicates particular aspects of Franklin’s text; all are expected to demonstrate mastery of the content. But the main emphasis of each presentation is what the students call their “virtue project.” Each student has chosen three virtues: two from Franklin’s list and one of his or her choosing. They have identified concrete actions that indicate whether they are succeeding or failing at pursuing their chosen virtues and have spent the past week tracking their actions. Each presentation describes the student’s experience: students explain why they chose their virtues, how they understand them, and how their understanding differs from Franklin’s. Then they report on their success or failure in pursuit of their virtues and answer questions from the class.

Read More...

Architects and Citizenship

Architects and Citizenship
By Michael J. Lewis
(February 2014)

Here are three conceptions of the architect, as mutually exclusive as can be. According to venerable Vitruvius, whose Ten Books of Architecture is the only treatise on the subject to survive from classical antiquity, it is the architect who gives tangible form to the history, traditions, and “moral philosophy” of his civilization. To Richard Morris Hunt, the elegant virtuoso of Gilded Age mansions, the architect is a mere employee, duty-bound to gratify his client’s whims and wishes. But to Howard Roark, the fictional subject of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, the architect is an existential hero whose buildings belong to him and not his clients and who would even dynamite his own work if its integrity of vision was violated. In all of literature there is no more arresting portrayal of the architect: the exalted form-giver who recognizes no law but his own titanic force of will.

All these outrageously contradictory portraits are equally valid—such is the paradox of the architectural profession. It is indeed true that the architect is the advocate of the client who engages him, whose best interests he represents as would a doctor or lawyer. And it is just as true that every building is an individual artistic statement. Just as a handwritten signature is the work of a single human hand, so the contours, masses, and volumes of a building must be shaped by a controlling artistic intelligence; it cannot help but express the personality of its creator, although few are as arrogant as Roark. And yet Vitruvius too is correct to recognize that architecture has a civic dimension, that it is the essential civic art. “Moral philosophy” is not out of place in an architect’s tool kit if one recognizes how profoundly the spaces and facades of buildings affect our public life.

Read More...

As Far As Republican Principles Will Admit: In Honor of Martin Diamond

When Martin Diamond decided the time had come to collect his essays of some twenty years into a single volume, he selected as its title, As Far as Republican Principles Will Admit. That selection was the only piece of guidance he left for those whose task it became to finish the project after his sudden and tragic death in 1977. But, as Diamond would have insisted, it was guidance enough. He composed titles for his essays with the utmost care and deliberation well before he began writing them, because an essay’s title was, for him, its end or purpose—its reason for being written. And just as the end or purpose of a political institution, when fully elaborated, explains every facet of its behavior, so the title of a piece, he insisted, should suggest or imply its entire argument.

The essays in this volume, then, have been selected and arranged to elucidate the author’s carefully and deliberately chosen title. As Diamond foresaw, once we have explored the title’s meaning we do indeed have a glimpse of his full argument about the nature of the American political order.

Read More...

The Return of ROTC to New York City

The Return of ROTC to New York City
By Cheryl Miller
(October 2013)

Last month, the US Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) returned to the City College of New York after a 41-year absence. At the official signing ceremony last May, former secretary of state and retired general Colin Powell—arguably the college’s most famous alum and a graduate of Army ROTC—noted the significance of the reconciliation. In bringing ROTC back to campus, General Powell said, the college was recognizing that “we may disagree with the politics or the policies of it all but military service is honorable.”

General Powell’s words were a reminder of ROTC’s tumultuous history at City College and its forced ouster during the firestorm of student protests over the Vietnam War. Like several other prominent schools—among them, Harvard, Yale, and Columbia University—City College had hosted one of the earliest ROTC programs in the nation, graduating its first class in 1917. But this collaboration ended during the Vietnam era after some schools voted to bar the college-based training program for military officers from campus. Later opposition to US policy on gays in the military, particularly “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), reinforced the schools’ bans and led to the removal of more ROTC programs, including at one of City College’s sister schools, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in the late 1980s and early ’90s.

Read More...

Tocqueville’s ‘Most Powerful Barrier’: Lawyers in Civic Society

Tocqueville’s ‘Most Powerful Barrier’: Lawyers in Civic Society
By Adam J. White
(September 2013)

To those of us who want to believe that The Federalist is the “true account of the Constitution and of the regime it was calculated to engender,” the early weeks of summer always put our faith to the test.

Every June, the Supreme Court concludes its year’s work by releasing many—maybe all—of the term’s most controversial decisions. That annual spectacle, in which judges and lawyers dominate political headlines for a week or more, often casts no little doubt on Publius’s famous prediction that “the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous” branch of the federal government, exercising “neither force nor will, but merely judgment.” Whatever one thinks of the court’s decisions that term, one cannot deny that the court’s justices, and the lawyers that bring the cases to bar, wield enormous power in American politics.

Read More...

The Role of Political Science and Political Scientists in Civic Education

The Role of Political Science and Political Scientists in Civic Education
By James W. Ceaser
(August 2013)

Civic education in America today is widely said to be in trouble. Whether the concern is primary and secondary education (K–12), where national civics tests show that only a quarter of 12th graders score at a level considered proficient; higher education, where requirements in core American history and government courses are being rapidly abandoned; or adult education for immigrants, where communities and businesses have fallen woefully short in providing English language and civics instruction, all signs point to a failure in imparting the basic knowledge that contributes to good citizenship.

We cannot say for sure if things have gotten worse than they were in the past, but leaders and educators today are certainly worried. As former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, now active in promoting civic education, recently noted, “We have a terrible problem on our hands.”

Although not alone in expressing alarm, members of one profession can perhaps lay special claim to a proprietary interest in this problem: political scientists. Practitioners of political science in ancient Greece first identified the concept of civic education, and political scientists to this day continue to produce some of the most significant commentary and scholarship on the subject.

Read More...

Toward a More Perfect Union: In Honor of Herbert J. Storing

Herbert J. Storing (1928–77) was one of America’s most distinguished political scientists and political theorists. He spent most of his professional life at the University of Chicago, and was, at the time of his death, Robert K. Gooch Professor of Government at the University of Virginia. His books include What Country Have I?: Political Writings by Black Americans (1970), The Complete Anti-Federalist (1981), and What the Anti-Federalists Were For (1981).

Many of Storing’s essays were collected in 1995 for AEI’s Landmarks in Contemporary Political Thought series. The 24 essays presented here were written between the early 1960s and his death in 1977. They are grouped in sections on the legacy of the Founding Fathers, race relations, rights and the public interest, bureaucracy and big government, statesmanship and the presidency, and liberal education. 

Read More...

The Future of Journalism and Citizenship

The Future of Journalism and Citizenship
By Christopher Caldwell
(July 2013)

In 2012, the Pulitzer Prize committee awarded the prize for breaking news reporting to the Tuscaloosa News in Alabama for its coverage of a wave of tornados that had swept through Alabama and other southern states the previous spring. There had been hundreds of dead and missing. Buildings were smashed or lost power—and one was the paper’s printing plant. While the News was getting its operations up and running at another plant
50 miles away, it used Google Documents and social media to report on storm developments and coordinate searches for missing persons.

It is an inspiring story for watchers of storms, but a depressing one for watchers of journalism—a newspaper gets praise for finding an alternative to publishing a newspaper. That, in microcosm, describes journalism’s encounter with information technology over the past decade. The efficiencies brought by open trade and the easy flow of information were revolutionizing many industries by the 1970s. It took a very long time for these developments to work their way into the journalism world, but when they arrived, they did so with a vengeance.

Read More...
AEI