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Rendell Center Receives Annenberg Civics Award to Create First Amendment Videos

The Annenberg Public Policy Center’s Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics has named the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement as the recipient of the 2023 Civic Mission of the Nation Award.

The Rendell Center will receive $73,000 to produce a six-part video series for community colleges titled “The First Amendment in 21st Century America.” The one-hour videos will provide an in-depth examination of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, focusing on its historical context, interpretation, landmark Supreme Court cases, and its impact on American society.

The series, featuring scholars and federal court judges, will examine the delicate balance between the rights of individuals and the need to govern society and keep it safe, as well as how the constitutional Framers’ vision of First Amendment protections – of speech, religion, and the press, and the rights of assembly and to petition the government – have evolved because of the interpretations of generations of Supreme Court justices. And it will consider how those visions are being challenged in the 21st century under Chief Justice John Roberts’ Supreme Court.

“We’re excited to support the Rendell Center in this important undertaking and hope that these no-cost educational videos will enrich community college offerings on the First Amendment,” said Andrea (Ang) Reidell, director of outreach and curriculum for the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (LAIC) of the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC).

The video series, which will be released by Constitution Day 2024, builds on a curriculum that the Rendell Center has offered in recent summers for middle and high school teachers through a one-week seminar program in Philadelphia supported in part by the National Endowment of the Humanities, as well as in a summer webinar series. The programs were offered in partnership with APPC.

Founded in 2014 by former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell and Senior Third Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Marjorie O. Rendell, the Rendell Center seeks to restore the civic mission of schools by supporting K-12 teachers and administrators to advance the subjects of U.S. history, government, and civics. Among its activities are an annual Citizenship Challenge essay contest for classes of Pennsylvania fourth and fifth graders.

“We are gratified the Annenberg Public Policy Center is enabling us to work with area community colleges to bring this lasting instruction about the First Amendment to a broad audience, at a time when the understanding of our rights and responsibilities as citizens is so important,” Judge Rendell said.

The civics award

The Civic Mission of the Nation Award is open to partners in the Civics Renewal Network (CRN), another LAIC initiative, which includes 43 partner organizations dedicated to enhancing civics education by providing free, high-quality, nonpartisan educational resources. These civics awards specifically target the development and dissemination of instructional resources and programs that support civics education for adult learners in three areas: community colleges, the military, and business. The program assists CRN partners in revising or creating instructional materials that elevate the understanding of the Constitution and how our government works.

Recipients of the 2022 Civic Mission of the Nation awards recently launched these projects for adult learners:

  • The Center for Civic Education created Civil Discourse: An American Legacy Toolkit to guide adult learners in how to face challenging conversations and encourage solutions that consider diverse stakeholders while still remaining rooted in our country’s history and founding principles.
  • The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History developed the Community College Learning Guide that supports service learning in political science and government courses by guiding students in how to conduct their own research and create community outreach projects.
  • The Indiana University Center on Representative Government produced Everyday Civics: Tools for Daily Livingan online game that encourages civic participation and involved citizenship by helping adult learners easily understand the programs and resources at the local, state, and national levels of government.