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Washington, D.C., Summit Promotes Innovation in Civics Education

As a recent policy center survey found, Americans are ill-informed about provisions in the Constitution. Only a quarter of Americans can name the three branches of government and more than a third can’t name any First Amendment rights. Other surveys have chronicled a loss of trust in our fellow citizens, institutions, and government (see the briefing paper below).

High-quality civics education is a key to reversing these dismaying trends. In furtherance of that mission, the Annenberg Public Policy Center and the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement provided support last week for a civics summit in Washington, D.C., that brought together experts in civics education, philanthropic leaders, policy makers, members of the media and others.

Democracy at a Crossroads.

APPC and the Rendell Center were among the partners in the Democracy at a Crossroads National Summit, which was held at the Newseum and featured Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Carnegie Corporation President Vartan Gregorian, among others. The experts examined the state of civic knowledge among young people, looked at case studies on educational approaches being taken in different states, and issued a call for “significant new investments in innovation as well as changes in federal, state, and district policies.”

Both of the co-founders of the Rendell Center, Judge Marjorie O. Rendell and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, took part in the summit. Judge Rendell, of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, moderated the panel “How Civics Learning Got its Groove Back,” on innovation in education. Former Gov. and Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell took part in the panel “Making the Case for Civic Education: Why We Must Act Now,” on government, politics, civic life and civic education.

The summit was sponsored by Carnegie Corporation of New York and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and co-hosts included iCivics, the Jonathan Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University, the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools and the Lou Frey Institute. iCivics is also a partner with APPC’s Annenberg Classroom in the Civics Renewal Network, which is dedicated to making high-quality civics resources available online.

For additional information on the conference, civics surveys, and different approaches to civics education, see the summit briefing paper “The Republic is (Still) at Risk — and Civics is Part of the Solution.”