Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


A Civic Blueprint for Illinois

By Shawn Healy
Justice David Souter, in a May 20, 2009 speech at Georgetown Law School, called for "the restoration of the self-identity of the American people." To accomplish this, the retiring jurist said we should begin by “re-educat(ing) a substantial part of the public." Souter committed himself to lending a hand in revamping the civics curriculum in public schools across his native New Hampshire.

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.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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