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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.


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.


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.


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.


NEW Policy Brief: Architects and Citizenship

In the latest addition to “The Professions and Civic Culture” series, Williams College professor of art history Michael J. Lewis discusses the idea of “architectural citizenship” and the role architects play in American civic life. According to Lewis, the making of any building is a social act that stakes a claim on finite resources of land and space and that can enhance the value of the buildings around it or diminish it. Only the most solitary and remote building is without implications for society.


Seven Score and Ten Years Ago

In the Weekly Standard, Program director Gary Schmitt writes on the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address:

November 19 marks the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address—rightly judged to be the greatest speech in America’s history. And while there have been innumerable books and articles written about the content, language, and rhetorical sophistication of Lincoln’s remarks, far less has been written about why he chose the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg, some four and a half months after the battle itself, to deliver the speech he did.

Lincoln had been invited by the organizing committee for the battlefield’s consecration to give, as “Chief Executive of the nation,” “a few appropriate remarks.” But these were to follow the main attraction of the day, a speech by famed orator Edward Everett, former president of Harvard, senator, and governor of Massachusetts. With Everett expected to speak to the assembled crowd for two hours at least, Lincoln could well have chosen to follow Everett with just a few perfunctory lines, assuming what really mattered to the organizers was the president’s attendance, not what he might have to say.

But Lincoln chose a different path. Why?

Read the whole thing to find out.


A Moving Immigration Naturalization Ceremony

Each year, thousands of immigrants are sworn in as American citizens in ceremonies across the country. In one ceremony in Alaska, a middle school’s beloved US history teacher, a native of Venezuela, received her naturalization, writes Michelle Theriault Boots of the Anchorage Daily News.


Reimagining Citizenship

A diverse panel of civic leaders gathered at this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival from June 26July 2 to discuss the state of civic engagement in America. Moderated by Eric Liu, the founder of Citizen University, the “Reimagining Citizenship” panel discussed whether the spirit of citizenship was still alive in America, or if larger efforts were needed to reinvigorate civic engagement.


Adjusting Our Education Priorities

The current debate over education reform tends to focus on preparing students for more profitable careers, but Robert Pondiscio argues that there is a more fundamental priority of public schooling: citizenship. Pondiscio, writing for CNN, describes the need for schools to prepare students to be capable of effective self-government—an early priority of our Founding Fathers.


What would a national civics standard look like?

In The Atlantic, Robert Pondiscio, executive director of CitizenshipFirst, suggests that a ground-floor civics standard that must be met by all graduating students from high school is in order—and that the US Citizenship Test is just the place to start. Writing shortly after the release of his white paper for the Pioneer Institute (coauthored with Gilbert T. Sewall and Sandra Stotsky)—“Shortchanging the Future: The Crisis of History and Civics in American Schools”—Pondiscio laments the crisis in civic education and civic knowledge today, but thinks that setting a modest standard like the Citizenship Test would be more helpful than establishing more high-stakes testing or overhauling state standards.


The path not taken

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Hispanic Center, only about one-third of the 5.4 million legal immigrants from Mexico who are eligible to become citizens of the United States have pursued the path to citizenship. This rate of naturalization is only half that of legal immigrants from all other countries combined.


How can schools best educate Hispanic students?

In its spring issue, Education Next hosted a forum about how schools can best educate Hispanic students. Responding to the question, CEO of Chicago’s United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) Juan Rangel answers that schools catering to Hispanic populations should emphasize civic responsibility and good citizenship.  “A quality public school that emphasizes civic responsibility and good citizenship,” he writes, “will suffice to transition immigrants successfully, challenging them and the rest of us on our joint commitment to the welfare of our nation.”


Immigration and the 2012 election

Immigration reform is quickly becoming an in-the-news issue, as we noted earlier this week with Peter Skerry’s suggestions for what reform might look like. The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) has just joined the conversation, releasing a new fact sheet that uses post-election youth polling to examine young people’s views of immigration. The survey found that only a relatively small portion—7.8%—of young Americans ages 18-24 rated immigration as their top issue in the 2012 election. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those that did, however, overwhelmingly favored liberalizing immigration laws.


Civic education and charter schools: current knowledge and future research

The Center on Education Policy at George Washington University has just released a new report that provides a good overview of current research on civic education in charter schools and suggests opportunities for further research. (In regard to this latter point about future research opportunities, as Maria Ferguson, the head of the Center, notes, “The most interesting finding from our analysis is that the research that exists about civic education in any kind of school (charter, traditional public, or private) is limited at best.”)


Civics in the nation’s capital?

According to the Washington Post, a new proposal by the Washington DC State Board of Education would, among other things, eliminate the current requirement that students take a course in American government in order to graduate from high school. Instead, students would be required to take courses in world history (1 unit), United States history (1 unit), and Washington, DC history (0.5) units, and then would have the choice to fill their remaining 1.5 units of social studies with classes such as economics, financial literacy, global studies, or government/civics.


Counting on character

Last week, the AEI Program on American Citizenship published a case study by Daniel Lautzenheiser and Andrew P. Kelly that looked at the Democracy Prep Public Schools network in New York City. Today, we’d like to highlight the second study in the series that explores how top-performing charter schools have incorporated civic learning in their school curriculum and culture: “Counting on Character: National Heritage Academies and Civic Education.”


President Obama’s Second Inaugural

Yesterday, President Barack Obama delivered his second inaugural address—and the nation’s 57th. While much has been written on the politics of the speech, there are also some good citizenship themes in it that are worth pointing out.


Democracy Prep and civic education

In the first in a series of in-depth case studies by the AEI Program on American Citizenship exploring how top-performing charter schools have incorporated civic learning in their school curriculum and school culture, AEI’s Daniel Lautzenheiser and Andrew P. Kelly take a look at the Democracy Prep Public Schools network in New York City.


The European Year of Citizens

This year is the “Year of Citizens” for the European Union, which officially kicked off the year-long focus this past week in Dublin, Ireland. Viviane Reding, a politician from Luxembourg and the vice-president of the European Commission, told her audience in Dublin’s City Hall that the vast majority of EU citizens—86 percent—don’t know what their rights as EU citizens are, and that almost 70 percent don’t believe that their voices are being heard. This year’s focus on citizenship is, she says, an effort to change that.


A path to citizenship

Writing in The Atlantic, Eric Liu, a former Clinton speechwriter and creator of Citizen University, warns that with all the discussion that’s sure to come about immigration reform, we must be careful not to neglect discussing the destination: citizenship itself.  “What is this thing that needs to be earned?” he asks. “What, besides a bundle of rights, does the status entail and require? What do longstanding citizens take for granted and what is asked of brand-new Americans?”