Civics Initiative

In American education today, we’ve allowed an atrophy to occur. We’ve ignored the gradual reduction of history and civics and accepted an erosion of both content and context. But we can solve this problem – and it begins with families and communities. We can set aside partisan-driven approaches to history and civics and demand the most comprehensive, accurate and sequential approach to history, civics and citizenship ever conceived. That’s the Sutherland Civics Initiative.

Recommit to the institutions of civic education

To set the tone for this Initiative, please enjoy this video from Yuval Levin. His studies of the challenges we face today have led him back to one point of focus, our institutions.

WATCH: “In a lot of ways, this is a dark moment in American life. From bitter partisan polarization to very intense culture war animosities, alienation and isolation, loneliness, the kind of trouble that has been leading to an epidemic of opioid abuse to rising suicide rates. A lot of the particular fights we have in our culture now, whether it’s about the form of the family, religious freedom and the place of churches in our society, counsel culture, what happens on campuses, these are fights about how our institutions should form us…”

Get Yuval’s latest book here.

CIVICS: A REDISCOVERY

The following remarks were delivered by Sutherland President and CEO Rick Larsen at a launch event for the Sutherland Institute Civics Initiative – April 21, 2021.

If the evening news is in fact history’s first rough draft, then the history we’re writing today, with very few exceptions, is troubling. The division in America, according to some experts, is at Civil War levels.

Could it be that at least part of the reason we are seeing so much division, bitter partisan politics, and increasing violence in this nation has something to do with the fact that over time, we’ve come to a point where we hardly study or teach how freedom and self-governance work?

Watch the event highlight reel.

Sutherland Institute releases part 1 from major study on civics ed in Utah

In an effort to understand more about the state of civics education in Utah – its connection to societal distress and to other relevant education topics – Sutherland commissioned a multi-part study conducted by Heart+Mind Strategies in March and April 2021.

Sutherland Institute releases part 2 from major study on civics ed

In-depth discussion with Utah teachers and parents (over a five-day period) revealed how K-12 educators, as well as parents of K-12 students, feel about the state of social studies and civics education today.

Utah Civics Education Research

In an effort to understand more about the state of civics education in Utah – its connection to societal distress and to other relevant education topics – Sutherland commissioned a multi-part study conducted by Heart+Mind Strategies in March and April 2021.

The study included an online survey of Utahns 18 and over, including parents of children age 5-17, to reflect U.S. Census data for the state of Utah. A qualitative portion was conducted as well through in-depth discussions held separately with groups of parents and teachers.

“We are realizing the consequences of a lost baseline of the knowledge needed for civic participation,” said Rick Larsen, Sutherland Institute president and CEO. “Rather than respond to every symptomatic problem – and there are many – the data suggest that we move toward rediscovering, reviving and reprioritizing civics and history education. Our goal is to engage, instruct and empower every Utahn to be involved in this critical effort for the rising generation.”

Sutherland Institute releases part 1 from major study on civics ed in Utah

In an effort to understand more about the state of civics education in Utah – its connection to societal distress and to other relevant education topics – Sutherland commissioned a multi-part study conducted by Heart+Mind Strategies in March and April 2021.

Sutherland Institute releases part 2 from major study on civics ed

In-depth discussion with Utah teachers and parents (over a five-day period) revealed how K-12 educators, as well as parents of K-12 students, feel about the state of social studies and civics education today.

Civics Education in America: A brief history

Before it can be determined which direction a civics education renewal should take, we must understand how civics education got to its current state. That means understanding how civics education has evolved through the history of the United States.

Any number of current assaults on our freedoms and unity clearly highlight the need to begin now. And the strength of a comprehensive approach is that it can accommodate all views, theories and perspectives. We know that the study of our past successes and mistakes – like racism and every other failure that has occurred as we have worked to perfect this Union – is more valuable to our learning and future when those mistakes are understood in their full context.

Intro to new series: Putting primary sources into civics ed

Sutherland Institute is launching a new research series that highlights key historical references – primary sources from American history – that are valuable inclusions for any history or civics education.

Learning about America through primary sources: The Declaration of Independence

This is part 1 in Sutherland’s new series highlighting primary sources from American history in the hopes of enriching civics education.

Learning about America through primary sources: Constitution of the United States

The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. This founding document – created on Sept. 17, 1787 – lays out the rules, organization and operations of our government. This is part 2 in Sutherland’s new series highlighting primary sources from American history in the hopes of enriching civics education.

Learning about America through primary sources: Bill of Rights

The famous Bill of Rights is simply the first 10 amendments to the Constitution of the United States. It is considered to be the codification of some of the most fundamental individual rights, so fundamental, in fact, that there was debate as to whether it was even necessary to draft. This is part 3 in Sutherland’s new series highlighting primary sources from American history in the hopes of enriching civics education.

Learning about America through primary sources: The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers are a civics education in and of themselves. Written with the intent to explain particulars in the Constitution, the collection of essays helps readers today understand the mechanisms found within the Constitution and the political and philosophical justification for them.

Learning about America through primary sources: Marbury v. Madison

Aside from the fact that Marbury v. Madison is broadly studied for its impact in establishing judicial review – making it a fundamental element in American governance – students should understand the principle it illustrates so they can identify it at work today.

Putting primary sources into civics ed

Sutherland Institute launched a new research series highlighting key historical references – primary sources from American history – that are valuable inclusions for any history or civics education.

The primary source documents currently available in this series include the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Federalist Papers. Future reviews will  include Marbury v. Madison, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

We hope that by doing so, we can bolster the use of primary sources in the history and civics education of Utah students in traditional schools, alternative schooling options, and homeschool.

Intro to new series: Putting primary sources into civics ed

Sutherland Institute is launching a new research series that highlights key historical references – primary sources from American history – that are valuable inclusions for any history or civics education.

Learning about America through primary sources: The Declaration of Independence

This is part 1 in Sutherland’s new series highlighting primary sources from American history in the hopes of enriching civics education.

Learning about America through primary sources: Constitution of the United States

The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. This founding document – created on Sept. 17, 1787 – lays out the rules, organization and operations of our government. This is part 2 in Sutherland’s new series highlighting primary sources from American history in the hopes of enriching civics education.

Learning about America through primary sources: Bill of Rights

The famous Bill of Rights is simply the first 10 amendments to the Constitution of the United States. It is considered to be the codification of some of the most fundamental individual rights, so fundamental, in fact, that there was debate as to whether it was even necessary to draft. This is part 3 in Sutherland’s new series highlighting primary sources from American history in the hopes of enriching civics education.

Learning about America through primary sources: The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers are a civics education in and of themselves. Written with the intent to explain particulars in the Constitution, the collection of essays helps readers today understand the mechanisms found within the Constitution and the political and philosophical justification for them.

Learning about America through primary sources: Marbury v. Madison

Aside from the fact that Marbury v. Madison is broadly studied for its impact in establishing judicial review – making it a fundamental element in American governance – students should understand the principle it illustrates so they can identify it at work today.

Research & Insights

This Constitution Day, read the Constitution

This Constitution Day, read the Constitution. Through civics education, we can make America what the framers dreamed it would become: a more perfect union.

A summary of Utah’s education choice options (and how they help depoliticize the classroom)

What does Utah’s current education choice landscape look like? The range of education choice programs and policies include vouchers, tax credits and tax credit scholarships, public school choice, and a diverse blend of taxpayer-funded online options.

History, memory and the importance of reflecting on 9/11

As we reflect upon September 11, 2001, consider the history and the memory of the day. Both are important – and combined, they argue that we as grateful Americans must do a better job of teaching our past to the future citizens of this Republic.

Civics can help solve the problems of surging COVID cases, hospitalizations

If we are to do better in the future and maintain the American experiment in self-governance, it will be at least partly due to improved civics education.

The core concepts of critical race theory

This post informs readers about the main ideas of critical race theory by describing them in the words of critical race theorists, without intending any commentary on those ideas. The descriptions below should not be viewed as either critique or endorsement of the ideas described.

Learning about America through primary sources: Marbury v. Madison

Aside from the fact that Marbury v. Madison is broadly studied for its impact in establishing judicial review – making it a fundamental element in American governance – students should understand the principle it illustrates so they can identify it at work today.

Protecting against politicizing the classroom: A Q&A on curriculum transparency

“There is no one silver bullet to defeating the rise of politics in the classroom, but academic (curriculum) transparency would put a decisive stop to the ability of schools to smuggle controversial content in absent parental awareness.“

Mask mandate uproar is a civics lesson in real time

Whatever the next mask mandate dispute or controversy may be, it should remind us of the importance of understanding how our government works. The more we lose that understanding, the more that mask mandates and similar issues will feel like the least of our worries.

Learning about America through primary sources: The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers are a civics education in and of themselves. Written with the intent to explain particulars in the Constitution, the collection of essays helps readers today understand the mechanisms found within the Constitution and the political and philosophical justification for them.

‘It’s better to aim high’: Q&A on Utah State School Board’s revision of social studies standards

States with “exemplary” civics and history standards typically include four elements. This is the conclusion from a Sutherland Institute Q&A with Fordham Institute senior researcher David Griffith, who co-authored a recent analysis of every state’s civics and history standards, in which Utah rated “mediocre.”

Host a Cottage Meeting

A cottage meeting is simply an opportunity to gather friends and neighbors in a home, library or community center to share a message of Liberty. 

If you are interested in hosting a cottage meeting, send an email to si@sifreedom.org to learn how to get started.

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Phone: 801-355-1272

Fax: 801-355-1705

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