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Richard Lee Colvin

Creating capital citizens: Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools and civic education

For our latest case study in the “Teaching Citizenship in Charter Schools” series, Richard Lee Colvin, an education journalist and author of Tilting the Windmills: School Reform, San Diego, and America’s Race to Reform Public Education (out this month from Harvard Education Press), profiles the César Chávez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy in Washington, DC. The mission of the charter network—which has four schools located in the nation’s capital and serves 1,4000 students, nearly all of whom are African Americans or Latinos from low-income families—is to “empower students by helping them both succeed in college and learn to use their knowledge of government, public policy, and effective advocacy techniques to become ‘civic leaders committed to bettering our communities, country, and world.'”

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AEI Report: Creating Capital Citizens: Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy and Civic Education

Creating Capital Citizens: César Chávez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy and Civic Education
By Richard Lee Colvin
(April 10, 2013)

Chukwuma Isebor, an 18-year-old high school student whose father emigrated to the United States from Nigeria for college, says that prior to his senior year he was cynical and distrustful “of the government and the way it treated lower-income citizens and minorities.” Yet, there he was in December, arguing with two classmates before a panel of three judges that the patriotic spirit of the nation’s founders could be revived and the quality of American democracy improved if citizens participated more actively.

Chukwuma, Joseline Barajas, and Chyna Winchester are seniors at the César Chávez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy campus on 12th Street Southeast in Washington, DC, 11 blocks east of the Capitol. They offered up their thoughts on citizenship and democracy as they participated in the annual “We the People” competition at their school. The nationwide competition, sponsored by the Center for Civic Education, tests students’ knowledge of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights in a congressional hearing-style format. Teams research an opening statement that responds to questions on one of the competition’s six themes and then answer queries from a panel of judges. The goal of the competition is to promote knowledge and appreciation of the Constitution as the foundation of democracy in the United States.

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AEI