Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog



By Shawn Healy

The Illinois Supreme Court in Chicago was filled with educators and policy-makers this morning as Illinois Civic Mission Coalition, in partnership with the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago and the McCormick Freedom Museum recognized three exceptional Illinois high schools as Democracy Schools. Illinois Democracy Schools are accredited secondary schools that provide students with authentic experiences in the rights, responsibilities, and tensions inherent in living in a constitutional democracy. The three high schools that have earned this distinction in 2009 include:
  • Glenbard South, Glen Ellyn, IL
  • Maine West, Des Plaines, IL
  • Wheaton North, Wheaton, IL

Governor Pat Quinn sent a letter congratulating the schools and recognizing the vital importance of the civic mission of schools.

Each of the schools received a plague signed by the Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education, Jesse Ruiz, the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, Thomas Fitzgerald, and the schools’ state legislators—Senator Dan Cronin and Rep. Sandra Philos for Glenbard South; Senator Dan Kotowski and Rep. Rosemary Mulligan for Maine West; and Senator Carole Pankau and Rep. Franco Coladipietro for Wheaton North.

Democracy Schools provide numerous opportunities for students to participate in the democratic process through a range of classes and clubs. From class discussion on current issues and democratic simulations to extracurricular and service learning opportunities, students are able to experience first-hand the critical role they can play in shaping their government and society.

“The McCormick Freedom Museum’s mission is to enable informed 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,” said Shawn Healy, managing director, McCormick Freedom Museum. “Reincorporating civics into the curricula of our secondary schools is vital to advancing our mission and sustaining democracy in Illinois and beyond. The committed students, teachers, administrators, and school board members of Glenbard South, Maine West, and Wheaton North exemplify this cause and should be commended for joining the growing ranks of Illinois Democracy Schools.”

“The climate for reform couldn’t be more promising,” said Healy. “In 2008, more than 6.5 million young people under the age of 30 voted in the presidential election, which is a 17 percent increase from the 2000 election. This is the perfect time to capitalize on this excitement and channel this interest into a lifelong commitment to civic engagement.”

“Illinois has several outstanding examples of high schools committed to their civic mission,” said Carolyn Pereira, chair, Illinois Civic Mission Coalition and executive director, Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago. “Our goal, along with the Freedom Museum, is to increase the number of Democracy Schools in Illinois by working with policy-makers and educators to ensure all Illinois high schools become Democracy Schools.”


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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