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.

Learning about America through primary sources: Emancipation Proclamation

Students today are bombarded with messages about America – our history, slavery and race relations. Certainly, no student would be prepared for these widespread discussions without being aware of and studying the Emancipation Proclamation – what it did, what it didn’t do, what it meant, and where it led us.

Learning about America through primary sources: Dred Scott decision

It’s difficult to understand historical events critical to the modern American civic fabric – such as the Civil War and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – without first understanding Dred Scott, a Supreme Court ruling in 1857.

Learning about America through primary sources: Lincoln-Douglas debates

Through historical records like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, we can learn from these periods of history and try to follow the model of their progress while avoiding their missteps.

Learning about America through primary sources: Civil Rights Act of 1964

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark piece of legislation that prohibited discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, and ended segregation in public places. The new law put an end to legalized racial segregation, known as “Jim Crow laws.”

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, the Federalist Papers, 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.

Learning about America through primary sources: Emancipation Proclamation

Students today are bombarded with messages about America – our history, slavery and race relations. Certainly, no student would be prepared for these widespread discussions without being aware of and studying the Emancipation Proclamation – what it did, what it didn’t do, what it meant, and where it led us.

Learning about America through primary sources: Dred Scott decision

It’s difficult to understand historical events critical to the modern American civic fabric – such as the Civil War and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – without first understanding Dred Scott, a Supreme Court ruling in 1857.

Learning about America through primary sources: Lincoln-Douglas debates

Through historical records like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, we can learn from these periods of history and try to follow the model of their progress while avoiding their missteps.

Learning about America through primary sources: Civil Rights Act of 1964

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark piece of legislation that prohibited discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, and ended segregation in public places. The new law put an end to legalized racial segregation, known as “Jim Crow laws.”

Research & Insights

Judicial review and the infamous Dred Scott case

Chief Justice John Marshall, who established the practice of judicial review, was replaced by Roger Taney, a loyalist of President Andrew Jackson, in 1836. To the degree Taney is remembered, it is for the infamous decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford.

Solving our civic challenges: A Q&A with Andy Smarick

“Today’s political discourse is misleading us about our state of affairs, making us believe that things are far worse than in fact they are,” says Andy Smarick of the Manhattan Institute. He urges localism, among other things, to reestablish Americans’ sense of community.

Civic commitments are an intrinsic part of American national holidays

In our minds, we usually link Thanksgiving and other holidays with the things that are most important – gratitude, family, friends and tradition. But there’s more: Underlying each of our shared national holidays is a civic commitment.

Learning about America through primary sources: The 13th-15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution

The 13th, 14th and 15th amendments were enacted during the post-Civil War period known as Reconstruction (1865-1877). Together, they were an attempt to establish and protect Black Americans’ constitutional and civil rights in the post-slavery period.

Supreme Court’s power over states was slow to develop

The Supreme Court’s power to invalidate state laws was slow to develop, as shown by what happened after an 1832 ruling that recognized the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation: The court’s decision was ignored by state and federal officials, whose subsequent actions led to the Trail of Tears.

How Chief Justice Marshall secured Supreme Court’s place in U.S. constitutional order

Nominated in 1801, John Marshall served for 34 years as chief justice of the United States and is widely recognized as the formative figure in the Supreme Court’s early history. Among other things, he succeeded in securing respect for the court among the other branches.

Learning about America through primary sources: Civil Rights Act of 1964

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark piece of legislation that prohibited discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, and ended segregation in public places. The new law put an end to legalized racial segregation, known as “Jim Crow laws.”

Robust curriculum transparency will build parent-teacher partnership

Just as every college course gives students a syllabus – an outline of topics that will be discussed and the resources that will be used – our K-12 public schools should proactively inform students and parents of the topics and resources they will encounter in a given school year.

Sutherland Institute testimony in support of improved curriculum transparency

Sutherland Institute supports and will continue to advocate for enhanced curriculum transparency for grades K-12.

Learning about America through primary sources: Lincoln-Douglas debates

Through historical records like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, we can learn from these periods of history and try to follow the model of their progress while avoiding their missteps.

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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Fax: 801-355-1705

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