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History of the Center for Civic Education

1965    The Center began as the Committee on Civic Education at the University of California at Los Angeles.

1965-67 The Committee developed and implemented professional development programs with nationwide participants supported by the Danforth Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Education under the National Defense Education Act and the Education Professions Development Act.

The Committee developed and implemented curricular programs in civics and government entitled, Your Rights and Responsibilities as an American Citizen; Conflict, Politics and Freedom; and Voices for Justice.

1967-69 The Committee created and administered a statewide curricular program on the Bill of Rights sponsored by the Advisory Panel to the Committee on Teaching About the Bill of Rights of the California State Board of Education.

1969    The Center became affiliated with the State Bar of California.

1969-74  The Center was funded by the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration of the U.S. Department of Justice and the California Council on Criminal Justice to develop and implement the Law in a Free Society professional development program in ten major school districts in California. The program was based on concepts fundamental to an understanding of politics and government. It was conducted under the auspices of the Extension Division of the University of California at Los Angeles.

1974    The Center became a program of the State Bar of California.

1974    With funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Center produced the first editions of the Law in a Free Society/Foundations of Democracy multi-media curriculum materials.

1979 The Center became part of a consortium implementing civic education programs throughout the nation funded by the U.S. Department of Education under the Law Related Education Act. Other members included the Constitutional Rights Foundations of Los Angeles and Chicago, Street Law, and the Special Committee on Youth Education for Citizenship of the American Bar Association.

1981    The Center became an independent 501(c)(3) California nonprofit corporation affiliated with the State Bar of California.

1982    With funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Center began the Youth for Justice program in conjunction with the Constitutional Rights Foundation, Street Law, the American Bar Association, and Phi Alpha Delta. The Center promoted the implementation of its Foundations of Democracy program through this funding.

1987    With funding through the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, the Center started the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution program and published the first We the People text, which was for high school students. The We the People program won national acclaim as a civic education program focusing on the history and principles of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. It has since been implemented in every state and congressional district and the District of Columbia.

1988     The Center published the We the People texts at the elementary and middle school levels.

1988    The Center began The Disney Channel Salutes the American Teacher and The Walt Disney Company Presents the American Teacher Awards.

1991    The Center published CIVITAS: A Framework for Civic Education, which was developed in conjunction with educators in every state as well as several other countries.

1992    The We the People program continued as a direct line item in the budget of the U.S. Department of Education and became an authorized program of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for twenty-three years.

1993    The Center created We the People: Project Citizen, which was incorporated into the ESEA as an authorized educational program. Project Citizen is a portfolio-based curricular program that promotes engaged participation in local, state, and federal government.

1994    The Center published the National Standards for Civics and Government, developed in conjunction with more than two thousand scholars, educators, and members of the general public. The National Standards have been widely used as a model for state curricular frameworks and standards throughout the country and in a number of other nations describing what students should know and be able to do in the field of civics and government at the end of grades 4, 8, and 12.

1994 Congress passed the Goals 2000: Educate America Act (P.L. 103-227). Two of the eight national goals the law established deal specifically with civic education: Goal 3: Student Achievement and Citizenship, and Goal 6: Adult Literacy and Lifelong Learning. The Center led the effort to establish “civics and government” as a core discipline in our national dialogue on improving student performance.

1995    The Center began the Civitas International Civic Education Exchange program with the Civitas@Prague conference supported by the United States Information Agency.

1996    The Center, in cooperation with the United States Information Agency, sent teams of teachers into Bosnia and Herzegovina shortly after the war ended to institute an education for democracy program entitled Civitas@Bosnia-Herzegovina.

1996    The Civitas program becomes an authorized federal program in the ESEA providing a basis to help emerging democracies through Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East to establish civic education programs in their schools. The program led to the Center’s curriculum being translated and adapted in more than 80 countries.

1996     The Center started the Campaign to Promote Civic Education, a fifty-state effort to encourage states and school districts to devote systematic attention to civic education from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

1997    The Center first offered the National Academy for Civics and Government. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the academy provides American and international educators the opportunity to engage in serious study and seminar-style discussion of fundamental political ideas, the principles of the founding of the Constitution of the United States, and the values of American constitutional democracy.

1998    The Civics Framework for the 1998 National Assessment of Educational Progress (sometimes called the “The Nation’s Report Card”) was developed by Center staff and was based  upon the Center’s National Standards for Civics and Government.

1998     The Center started the nationwide School Violence Prevention Demonstration Program, which became an authorized program in the ESEA with dedicated funding. The program was designed to improve students’ civic knowledge and attitudes as they relate to tolerance for the ideas of others; civic responsibility; authority and the law; and social and political institutions.

1998    With the assistance of scholars and educators from around the world, the Center published Res Publica: An International Framework for Education in Democracy. The document is an expression of a cross-cultural consensus on the central meanings and character of the ideas, values, principles, and institutions of democracy.

1999    The Center started its Native American Initiative and later added initiatives on civil rights. The Center also developed Justice Is Also Deaf, a civic education program for deaf students in collaboration with Civication, Inc. This led to the inaugural Justice Is Also Deaf national competition at Gallaudet College in May 2011. 

2001 The Center launched Representative Democracy in America, a federally funded program implemented in cooperation with the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Center on Congress at Indiana University. It was a national project that educated Americans through videos, e-learning modules, and other innovative instructional materials on the critical relationship between government and the people it serves.

2003    The Center published Education for Democracy: A Scope and Sequence for California Civic Education, which describes ways in which civic education content and skills are introduced in the primary grades and built on through high school.

2003–2006    The Center conducted four Congressional Conferences on Civic Education in conjunction with the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Center on Congress at Indiana University, and delegations from every state in the country as part of the Representative Democracy in America program. The Joint Leadership of the U.S. Congress served as honorary hosts for these unprecedented events.

2006    The Center began the American Civic Education Teacher Awards program in conjunction with the National Education Association and the Center on Congress. This annual awards program honors three educators for their exemplary work in preparing young people to become informed and engaged citizens.

2007    The Center published Elements of Democracy, a resource for high school, college-level, and adult audiences that consists of the range of ideas that make up the vocabulary of democracy.

2007   The Center conducted a Project Citizen World Showcase in Washington, DC that included teams of students from every continent.  The student portfolios were on put on display in the United States Senate. The Showcase was the subject of the award-winning documentary film, The World We Want. 

2008    With funding by the Arsalyn Foundation, the Center developed Citizens, Not Spectators, a program to increase the voting rate among young Americans by providing engaging voter education.

2009    The Center began production of the 60-Second Civics daily podcast and civics quiz.

2011    The Center published electronic versions of all of its curricular publications.

2013    The Center published the Enhanced Ebook edition of We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution for high school students.

2014    The Center published the Enhanced Ebook edition of We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution for middle school students.

2014–2015    The Center worked with the offices of U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) to pass U.S. Senate Resolutions 427 and 150 by unanimous consent   about the importance of civic education programs in our schools.

2015    The Center published the fourth edition of We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution.

2015    With funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Supporting Effective Educator Development program, the Center began the James Madison Legacy Project, a major teacher professional development initiative in conjunction with civic educators in forty-seven states.

2015    The Center and its national network of We the People coordinators influenced significant improvements in the “Every Student Succeeds Act” that was signed into law on December 10, 2015, including language that allows the Secretary of Education to award grants for “programs that educate students about the history and principles of the Constitution of the United States, including the Bill of Rights.”

2018    The Center was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to conduct a five-year series of Presidential Academies for teachers and Congressional Academies for students. In the summers of 2019–2023, participants will be immersed in the study of constitutional history and principles following the intellectual framework of the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution curriculum.