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Delaware Summit on Civics Education

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A focus on the importance of civics curricula in Delaware

 
Dr. Peter Levine of Tufts University, Dr. Peter Levine of Tufts University, a national civics education expert and author of We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: The Promise of Civic Renewal in America, served as the summits keynote speaker.

Dr. Peter Levine of Tufts University, Dr. Peter Levine of Tufts University, a national civics education expert and author of We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: The Promise of Civic Renewal in America, served as the summit's keynote speaker.

Over 100 educators, elected officials, policymakers, and citizens convened in UD's Clayton Hall on February 7 for the Delaware Summit on Civics Education to explore ideas for improving civics education in Delaware.

The summit, hosted by the Institute for Public Administration's (IPA) Democracy Project, addressed the marginalization of civics education curricula and the need for a new vision for civics to meet 21st century needs. "I think all Americans, regardless of ideology, can agree that the degrees of divisiveness, polarization and incivility, coupled with increases in phenomena such as fake news, beg for improvements in the nature of civics education," said Fran O'Malley, the Democracy Project's director.

Dr. Peter Levine of Tufts University, a national civics education expert and author of We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: The Promise of Civic Renewal in America, served as the summit's keynote speaker and concurred.

"Civic participation, civic knowledge, and civic education are the underpinning of American democracy," said Levine, who is leading a major research effort that will offer educators and policymakers a path forward for civics curricula. "If we don't constantly restore them, we lose something really special."

Along with presentations by both Levine and O'Malley, IPA Senior Fellow Ed Freel facilitated roundtable discussions around challenges and promising interventions associated with civics education in Delaware. For event organizers and even participants, the summit's group dialogue helped lay the groundwork for organizing a coalition to advocate for civics education and contribute to the development of a civics education action plan. 

Reflecting on the work of the project, Jill Szymanskian elementary school teacher in the Red Clay Consolidated School District and the 2013 National History Teacher of the Yearsaid, "lt is important to introduce kids early on to the civics process and help them in activities that teach them about the government and how they can participate in it. I hope what's gained from the summit is an awareness in Delaware that civics education needs to be a priority and that there needs to be more time dedicated to social studies education."

Amani Thurman, UD student and president of the university's Make It Count civic engagement initiative, echoed the idea of spotlighting civics education. "I'm frequently challenged by the lack of civic participation that I observe and it's a personal frustration," said Thurman. "I think that a robust civics education ties greatly into an individual feeling empowered to participate in their society."

The summit also welcomed a roster of local and state officials, including Newark City Council member Chris Hamilton. "I was questioned by so many people asking me what I'm doing here because something like this is mainly for teachers. While Newark doesn't have any direct control over local education, I think we have an obligation to be engaged in this type of conversation to get the community together," said Hamilton. "Delaware has an amazing coalition of civics educators who represent the possibility of making Delaware the first in the nation for civics."

State Representative David Bentz added to Hamilton's remarks. "I think a robust civics education and civic participation is vital for youth, but it's vital for all of us. Every generation is going to remake American democracy, so we need to have every generation educated so they can do that well."

Many summit participants were curious to learn more about the state of civics education and how their organizations could play an active role in the conversation.

"What I'm really here to do is learn what people are already doing in the schools because I don't know what's happening exactly at the schools," said Delaware Community Foundation President and CEO Stuart Comstock Gay. "I'm already hearing teachers saying, "Here's what we do, here's how it works, and here's the problems we're having," and that helps me think about how we might be able to engage in these issues."

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Delaware Governor John Carney presents Dr. Jerome Lewis, director of UDs Institute for Public Administration, with a plaque honoring his lifetime commitment to advancing the causes of civics education and public service.

Delaware Governor John Carney presents Dr. Jerome Lewis, director of UDs Institute for Public Administration, with a plaque honoring his lifetime commitment to advancing the causes of civics education and public service.

Governor John Carney closed the summit offering his support for efforts to improve civics education in the First State. The Governor also took time to recognize Dr. Jerome Lewis, director of IPA, for a lifetime of commitment to advancing the causes of civics education and public service.

About the Institute for Public Administration

The University of Delaware's Institute for Public Administration (IPA) addresses the policy, planning, and management needs of its partners through the integration of applied research, professional development and the education of tomorrow's leaders.

About The Democracy Project Institute for Teachers

The Democracy Project Institute for Teachers brings together teachers (K-12) and leaders in government and education to discuss the importance of civic participation for the future of our democratic society and collaborate on ways to inspire active youth citizenship.

The institute is designed to improve the teaching and learning of civics by enhancing participants' content knowledge, practices, and understanding of standardsboth civics and literacyand assessments. The 2019 Summer Institute for Teachers will run from Monday, June 17 through Friday, June 21.

Article by Chris Kelley.

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Over 100 educators, elected officials, policymakers, and citizens convened in UD's Clayton Hall on February 7 for the Delaware Summit on Civics Education to explore ideas for improving civics education in Delaware.
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