Director’s Report September 2014

Date: 
September 1, 2014 (All day)

Dear friends:

The highlights you’ll see below of the Center’s summer activities make it clear that we’re always at work teaching the importance of the legislative branch in our representative democracy and the critical need for informed and engaged citizenship. But around this time every year, the pace does quicken, with tens of thousands of undergraduates returning to the IU-Bloomington campus for fall semester, and most K-12 students and their teachers also beginning a new year in schools across America.

In the civic education field, the September observance of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day is an opportunity for us to resolve anew to help young people, and all Americans, learn about our nation’s heritage, our past deeds good and bad, our political system. And it’s a time to recommit to setting a good example as citizens — to seek the facts, deliberate thoughtfully, debate respectfully, and strive for consensus. Each of us has a role to play in forming the “more perfect Union.”

Thank you for your interest and support.

With warm regards,

Lee H. Hamilton

Director, Center on Congress at Indiana University

Mark your calendar. The joint observance of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day is almost upon us: On Sept. 17, the nation will commemorate the 227th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, and pause to reflect on the obligations of American citizenship. The Center on Congress is a partner in the newly established Civics Renewal Network (CRN), which has organized a series of events on this important civic holiday, including: a reading of the Preamble to the Constitution by students in schools across the nation; naturalization ceremonies at iconic sites throughout the country; and activities in Washington, D.C. for civics students and teachers representing all 50 states. 

Working with the Center, Emily McCord, 7th grade social studies teacher at Batchelor Middle School in Bloomington, Ind., is coordinating efforts to have all the school’s 600 students participate in the Preamble Challenge. (All together now: “We the people of the United States, in order to form…”) [Link to http://dev.civicsrenewalnetwork.org/featured/take-preamble-challenge]

The Center is one of more than two dozen organizations in the CRN, a non-partisan, non-profit consortium brought together by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania to enhance civics education in our nation's schools and improve accessibility to high-quality, no-cost learning materials. At http://www.civicsrenewalnetwork.org/, teachers can find exemplary resources from CRN organizations, searchable by subject, grade, resource type, standards, and teaching strategy.

“Freedom Summer” App Debuts. Now available as an iPad app and on the Web is “Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” a game-based interactive learning module from the Center on Congress that explores the relationship between the civil rights movement and Congress’s passage of civil rights legislation. In the app, players are presented with a series of 20 events in history — some showing the activities of the civil rights movement in 1963 and 1964, and others showing how civil rights legislation was debated in Congress. The game reveals how events outside and inside the legislative process influenced each other, leading to the act being signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson 50 years ago. 

[Full story http://www.centeroncongress.org/“freedom-summer”-app-teaches-players-about-the-forces-shaped-congress’s-passage-the-civil-rights-act]

ACETA Recipients Visit Capital. In recognition of their winning the 2013 American Civic Education Teacher Award, David Alcox of Milford High School in Milford, N.H., and Douglas Oswald of Marion Technical Institute in Ocala, Fla. were treated to a July visit in Washington, with touring guidance from Mark J. Molli, Associate Director of the Center for Civic Education, who arranged a busy two-day schedule that included appointments in the Capitol and at the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the National Archives. See the teachers’ photo on the Speaker’s balcony on the Center’s Facebook page [http://on.fb.me/1lAapAv]. CCE, the National Education Association and the Center annually co-sponsor ACETA, highlighting teachers of civics, government and related subjects who demonstrate exceptional expertise, dynamism and creativity in motivating students to learn about the Constitution, Congress and public policy.

President Hails “Extraordinary Leadership” of Hamilton, Kean. Former members of the 9/11 Commission gathered in Washington in July to announce a new report, “Today's Rising Terrorist Threat and the Danger to the United States: Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of The 9/11 Commission Report.” In a video, President Obama praised the Commission’s leaders, former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean and Center Director Hamilton. “Both of you embody what Americans want in their public servants: integrity, humility, intelligence, and a commitment to put the interests of our country before any partisan or personal agenda….I speak for so many Americans when I say that our country could use a lot more public servants like Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton.” [Full story http://www.centeroncongress.org/president-obama-hails-“extraordinary-leadership”-hamilton-kean]

Teacher Training Institutes. The Center kept up its summer tradition of providing professional development programs for social studies teachers, hosting “Teaching with Primary Sources Institutes” in Bloomington and Indianapolis in June and July. The institutes are designed for teachers of civics, government, social studies, and U.S. history. Attendees become fully conversant in the classroom use of the Center’s online resources and the Library of Congress’s extensive digital primary source materials. Teachers, stay tuned for news of more training sessions coming up.

Carmines Analyzes Competitive Campaigns. IU political scientist Edward G. Carmines, the Center’s Director of Research, has co-authored an article shedding light on how competitive congressional campaigns impact citizens’ attitudes and behavior. Published in the Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, the article analyzes a national survey of citizens conducted one year after the 2006 congressional elections, examining how exposure to a competitive House campaign affects voters' political knowledge and political interest as well as their consumption of political news. Carmines oversees the Center’s annual public opinion polling that gauges if Americans feel Congress is relevant to their lives and is living up to the framers’ expectation that it should be the responsive “people’s branch” of the federal government. [Full story http://www.centeroncongress.org/center’s-director-research-co-authors-article-examining-impact-competitive-campaigns]

Association of Former Members Awards Hamilton. Center Director Hamilton received the 2014 Distinguished Service Award of the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress (FMC) at the group’s 44th annual meeting in Washington. FMC is a non-profit organization that focuses on bipartisanship, dialogue, and strengthening representative democracy domestically and abroad. Former Rep. Barbara Kennelly (D-Conn.), FMC’s president, said, “We are thrilled to present Lee with this award recognizing his distinguished service in Congress and his subsequent active involvement in so many crucial endeavors to keep our country safe in the post 9/11 world.” [Full story http://www.centeroncongress.org/lee-hamilton-receives-distinguished-service-award-from-us-association-former-members-congress] 

Hamilton Commentaries. The Huffington Post has published two more of Hamilton’s commentaries on foreign policy — “Diplomacy Is the Only Real Solution to Iraq Crisis” appeared in June [link], and “International Community, Including U.S., Must Do More to Stop Ebola Outbreak” appeared in August [link]. In addition to leading the Center on Congress, Hamilton serves Indiana University as a Professor of Practice in the School for Public and Environmental Affairs, he is a Distinguished Scholar in the School of Global and International Studies, and he is co-chairman of IU’s International Engagement Advisory Board.

News Notes. August visits to the Center’s website (www.centeroncongress.org) showed a year-over-year increase of more than six percent. …On Facebook we post regularly about the Center’s resources and programs, and we invite comments about Congress, civic education, and the citizen’s role in our democracy. “Like” us on Facebook at “Center on Congress at Indiana University.”…To boost the Center’s capacity to reach more people, our website displays a “Give Now!” button, enabling online giving. Please click and donate, to help us revitalize representative democracy!