May 2021 Newsletter

News from the Center for Civic Education

Free Summer Learning Opportunities for Teachers and Students, Center President Wins ABA Award, The Value of Nonpartisan Civic and Constitutional Education, and More in This Month's Newsletter.

Supercharge Your Teaching of the Constitution This Summer

Supercharge your teaching

Would you like to improve your knowledge of the Constitution this summer and revitalize civic education in your school? Apply by June 1 for the online Presidential Academy for high school teachers. Do you know high-need students who aspire to be tomorrow's leaders, but need a firm grounding in the fundamentals of the American constitutionalism? Encourage them to apply for our Congressional Academy for high school students. Stipends and certificates of achievement indicating hours completed are offered to both teachers and students. This is no chalk-and-talk! Participants will collaborate in a variety of activities, including a simulated congressional hearing and virtual field trips.

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Project Citizen Institutes Taking Place this Summer!

Free professional development will be offered this summer to middle and high school teachers new to the Project Citizen curricular program! The Center's regional partners will host interactive summer institutes and academic-year follow-up PD. To learn more about the program and how you can participate, contact your state coordinator at the Project Citizen Research Program webpage.

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We Need Your Help to Support the Civics Secures Democracy Act

Please join the Center for Civic Education and our sister organizations in supporting the Civics Secures Democracy Act. This bipartisan legislation will create grants for states and districts to support and expand access to civic education and American history. Please visit this link and contact your members of Congress. With a strong showing of nationwide support, we have the chance to make civics the bipartisan national priority it truly deserves to be.

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ABA 2021 Silver Gavel Award

Center President and National Advisory Council Member Win ABA 2021 Silver Gavel Award

On May 20, the Center's president, Christopher R. Riano, and National Advisory Council member, William Eskridge, Jr., received the 2021 American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award for their book "Marriage Equality: From Outlaws to In-Laws."

"It is a true honor to receive such an incredible award, especially alongside my dear friend and co-author William Eskridge," said Riano. "We worked very hard to capture the stories of so many incredible people who make up the 50-year history of the marriage equality movement. It is wonderful to see the American Bar Association recognize how important it is to celebrate them when it comes to showing all Americans how it is possible to achieve real legal and social change no matter the cause."

"It is a great honor to receive the Silver Gavel Award, but an even greater honor was to tell the stories of the dozens of LGBTQ+ families who sought marriage rights," Eskridge told Yale Law School in an interview.

The American Bar Association has presented the Silver Gavel Award since 1958 to recognize products in media and the arts that are exemplary in fostering the American public's understanding of law and the legal system.

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Value of Nonpartisan Civic and Constitutional Education

The Value of Nonpartisan Civic and Constitutional Education

Center for Civic Education President Christopher R. Riano appeared recently on the Richard French Live show to discuss the value of civic education in a time of mistrust and anger. Riano discussed recent bipartisan efforts to bolster civic education. "A civic and constitutional education is a unifying force," said Riano. "It allows us to understand ... and come to a bigger sense of our history as Americans. A true civic and constitutional education allows us to safely look at some of the weaknesses that do exist in our system, and it also allows us to find ways to be engaged to address those. ... This is a nonpartisan issue and the support of civics should continue to be as it has historically been."

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Ken Thomas Retires

After 32 Years, Ken Thomas Retires from Teaching ... Sort Of

Ken Thomas has taught We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution for 22 years. At the end of this year, he will retire from teaching at Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park, Kansas, having started his career as an educator in 1989. But that's not the end of the story for Thomas. He recently sat down for an interview with the Center for Civic Education, where he revealed his plans to continue to be involved in civic education: "One of my things that I want to ... continue to do is remain involved in ... civics education and continue to work and expand not only the We the People program, but the iCivics program and many other programs that are out there educationally to help educate the American people about our nation," said Thomas.

Watch video

Quick Quiz! Which of the following rights is not mentioned in the First Amendment, but has been found by the Supreme Court to be protected by the Fourteenth Amendment?

A. The right to associate
B. The right to free speech
C. The right to peaceably assemble
D. The right to petition government for a redress of grievances

Read on to learn the answer!

Christopher Riano and Debra Lesser to Serve as Panelists at the NYSBA's Educating for American Democracy Conference

Center President Christopher R. Riano and New York We the People State Coordinator Debra Lesser will serve as panelists at the New York State Bar Association's "Educating for American Democracy" panel for the "Advocating for the Rule of Law" conference on Thursday, June 3. The event is free and open to the public. Jeh Johnson, former U.S. secretary of Homeland Security, will deliver the keynote address. The conference will also host panels titled "The Press, Social Media and the Rule of Law" and "Free and Fair Elections, Gerrymandering and the Rule of Law." The goal of the program is to empower all citizens to become better advocates for democracy.


Preserve Our Constitutional Democracy

To Preserve Our Constitutional Democracy, We Must Teach Civics

In a recent essay, Constitutional Rights Foundation President Amanda Susskind and Center for Civic Education President Christopher R. Riano write that "all civics educators ... recognize the bedrock civics principles: teaching students about civil discourse, the importance of the separation of powers of government, and individual constitutional rights. Those are the building blocks of knowledge within civic education, along with respectful communication, critical thinking, and valuing diverse viewpoints." Yet public funding for civics instruction is often sidelined. How can we remedy the weaknesses of our constitutional democracy while celebrating its strengths in an era of polarization? Amanda Susskind and Christopher R. Riano offer suggestions for the way forward in their article, "To Preserve Our Constitutional Democracy We Must Teach Civics," published in SCOCAblog, a Berkeley Law and Hastings Law Journal publication.

State Coordinators Meeting

Center for Civic Education State Coordinators to Meet in June

The Center for Civic Education's We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution state coordinators will meet online in June to discuss their accomplishments over the past year and to make plans for the future. "This annual gathering allows the states and the national We the People program to coordinate our efforts around our shared goals of expanding civic education to all students," said Robert S. Leming, director of the We the People Programs.

Task Force

Task Force Formed to Promote Center Programs

A group of We the People state coordinators has formed a Center Programs Task Force to promote the curricular programs of the Center for Civic Education. The task force will use surveys and focus groups to investigate ways to support and sustain the Center's programs.

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Civic Education for Lithuanian and Global Success

The Center's Civitas International Programs in Lithuania hosted "Civic Education for Lithuanian and Global Success," an online international conference on May 13 and 14. Lithuanian and international researchers and practitioners discussed the challenges of the citizenship paradigm in the process of globalization and current efforts to build civic competencies. Alissa Irion-Groth shared the Center's efforts to build and collaborate with civic education networks to advance policy and practice. She also discussed the Center's recent efforts to leverage technology and improve civic education for high-need students.

Quiz Answer!

A. The right to associate (see episode 4342)

For more quizzes and learning opportunities, check out the 60-Second Civics podcast and daily civics quiz!

This newsletter is a brief bulletin designed to keep you informed about some of the Center for Civic Education's news and events. Information presented includes news from around the country, news from other countries in the Center's Civitas International network, grant and award opportunities, and program updates and clarifications. If you have pertinent material that you would like to include in future newsletters, please contact Mark Gage at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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