A Civic Blueprint for Illinois
In Illinois, the Civic Mission Coalition is doing its part to champion Souter’s cause. This past February, 80 civic leaders, policymakers, educators and civic-minded students conducted a three-day conference in Wheaton sponsored by the McCormick Freedom Museum. As a result, the conferees created The Civic Blueprint for Illinois High Schools. The Blueprint outlines recommendations in six key areas that can be adopted in every high school in the state. These include:
*Requiring formal instruction in American government, law, and democracy as well as U.S. History in a comprehensive social studies program
*Endorsing the discussion of controversial issues in the classroom
*Endorsing the inclusion of service learning as an effective teaching tool and encouraging projects and experiences where students have a legitimate voice
*Encouraging schools to conduct a baseline assessment of their current extracurricular activities to determine how these activities offer students an opportunity to examine local issues
*Encouraging school administrators to support a student-created High School Bill of Rights and Responsibilities in their districts which would be subject to annual review and amendment
*Integrating democratic simulations in the classroom with real-life experiences and supporting the invitation and involvement of elected and appointed public officials in school classrooms and activities
Thanks to the help of dedicated educators, administrators and public officials, along with organizations like the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition, our state already has five schools that have been recognized as Democracy Schools. These schools offer civic learning opportunities to their students across the curriculum. Our goal is to increase the number of Democracy Schools in Illinois, by working with key stakeholders to create policies that will ensure all Illinois high schools will become Democracy Schools.
We ask that you read the report which contains a brief summary of the February conference, followed by the Civic Blueprint. Also, please visit the complementary Website at www.FreedomMuseum.US/DemocracySchools. The site contains additional resources, including information on exemplary organizations and schools that provide integrated civic education programs, along with a calendar that tracks professional development opportunities for educators and administrators. Finally, lead or encourage your local high schools to implement the Civic Blueprint in pursuit of Democracy School status.