2019 Teach-In: Integrating Experiential Learning of Trial Techniques in Middle & High School Government/Civics Classes

Friends in civics and government, on behalf of the Department of Legal Studies, Center for Law and Policy, I am sharing this upcoming professional development opportunity with you. On Friday, 28 June, the department is hosting a teach in at UCF that dives into using mock trials in the classroom. This could be a good and free experience to get some hands on play with the practice of an important element of civics instruction! The agenda is below.

teach in

For more information and to register, please contact Katie Connolly at katiec@ucf.edu or Dr. Marc Consalo at marc.consalo@ucf.edu.

how a mixed economy shapes our mentalities

(On my way to London for a small conference on Friedrich Hayek and Elinor and Vincent Ostrom).

These are some of the activities that we undertake as we organize social activity in a mixed 21st century economy:

  1. Observing prices of inputs and outputs and identifying opportunities for profit (market);
  2. Discussing a collective choice and then voting according to our preferences (democracy);
  3. Taking direction from a supervisor and directing subordinates to help fulfill that order (bureaucracy);
  4. Framing a complaint against another party and bringing it before a neutral tribunal (law);
  5. Forming an intimate, loving relationship with a concrete other person and taking that person’s interests as one’s own (family, and related groups);
  6. Drawing people of like minds together into a voluntary grouping (network);
  7. Assembling evidence for a conclusion and submitting it for expert review and possible publication and citation (science);
  8. Constructing a creative work within the boundaries of a genre and seeking the approval of a knowledgeable aesthetic community (art);
  9. Professing articles of faith and participating in the rituals of fellow believers (religion).

Sometimes these ways of interacting come into conflict. A society can use one method or another to make a decision, but not both at the same time; and the consequences of such choices may be profound. For example, if you have no ability to produce goods that have market value, but social outcomes are determined entirely by #1, then you may starve. But if the majority hates people like you and laws are made solely by #2, you may die. In subtler everyday cases, the balance among state regulation, bureaucracy, scientific autonomy, etc. can have huge economic and sociological effects.

Still, I start with the presumption that we need all of these ways of interacting. Each reflects accumulated experience and partial but significant truths about the world. Each results from the cumulative thinking of countless people, who surpass the mental capacity of any individual or small group. Each has proven a degree of fitness in the competition for support. It’s a dangerous form of arrogance to minimize any of these logics a priori, even though we are entitled to argue for one over the others in particular cases.

Thus I dissent from Hayek-style classical liberals who would assign these eight logics to two boxes. For Hayek, #1, #4, #5, #6 and #8 are “emergent” or “spontaneous” forms of order that reflect lots of people making specific choices in their own circumstances. We are good at these ways of thinking. On the whole, using these methods should generate progress, as improvements survive and mistakes die off. These methods should yield enough stability and predictability that individuals can act intentionally.

In contrast, Hayek thinks that #2 and #3 are examples of deliberate social engineering, which exceeds our capacities and endangers others by allowing too much discretion.

I disagree with this categorization because all these logics are emergent. Their current states reflect the largely uncoordinated activity of countless predecessors, who have thought and interacted in eight different ways. Just for example, any democratic system (#2) is a highly complex combination of rules, norms, forums, and offices. It cannot simply be the rule: “50%+1 wins,” because that rule doesn’t stand on its own. Who gets to vote? Who sets the agenda? Who is influential? The current state of a democratic system probably reflects some successful adaptation to circumstances. See Ostrom, E. (1986). An Agenda for the Study of Institutions. Public Choice,48(1), 3-25.

I also dissent from strong democrats and social democrats who think that only #2 is ultimately just; therefore, a deliberative democracy should be sovereign and able to make all decisions unless it chooses to assign decisions to other institutions (including courts and markets). I think this approach privileges one form of interaction, which has distinctive limitations as well as advantages.

So far, this is a familiar argument for a mixed economy (or political pluralism in Galston’s sense). I’ve tried to defend this position before, for instance in “polycentricity: the case for a (very) mixed economy” and “should all institutions be democratic?” Here I would like to add a point about the impact of such pluralism on our mentalities.

Participating in any collective endeavor teaches skills and values. We learn and develop lasting habits of character from each of the activities listed above.

Every time we use one of these logics, we learn to see the world in a particular way–for example, as a set of goods that all have current prices, or as a commonwealth shaped by our collective decisions, or as set of natural processes that can be objectively understood. We are responsible for making specific decisions: what to buy or sell, which way to vote, whether to join a church. But we are also responsible for making the meta-decision about which decision-making processes to use. It is unlikely that we will make those meta-decisions wisely unless many of us have substantial experience with each logic.

If market logics are hegemonic, everything (and everyone) looks like a good with a price, and other ways of thinking atrophy. Therefore, classical liberals/libertarians are wrong to think that a market accommodates all values and mentalities that are compatible with other people’s freedom. A rampant market shapes the subjectivity of its participants and makes them less capable of other forms of interaction. This is the truth in the charge against “neoliberalism” (a social order that is heavily influenced by market logics.)

A related problem for libertarians is that they need people to be socialized to favor market values. Two centuries after classical liberal ideas emerged, great masses of people have not gravitated to them. And when people have the freedom to form groups, sometimes the groups they design–such as gated residential communities and disciplined corporate bureaucracies–probably teach the next generation to expect and value imposed social order. Should young people be raised to think in market terms? If so, what is a legitimate way to accomplish that?

But the same charge might be made against the other logics, too. There are subcultures in which almost everyone is allergic to market thinking and only learns to participate in voluntary networks or aesthetic communities. Yet these subcultures don’t spread to the whole population any more than libertarianism does.

I am hinting at two empirical claims: 1) Immersion in any social form shapes subjectivity, influencing how people interact and the forms of interaction that they value. And 2) People who work in multiple social forms are better at weighing their respective pros and cons.

I think there is a large but dispersed empirical literature on the first claim, but I have not explored it thoroughly. I doubt much is known about the second claim.

The underlying theory here is compatible with two famous thinkers, who make somewhat strange bedfellows. One is the author of Federalist #51 (probably Madison) who writes, “This policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public.” He is emphasizing one principle of good design (division of power) that might be used across different social forms, but we could generalize his point. People are embedded in many private and public arrangements, all of which need principles of design.

That bring me to John Dewey, who writes, “The forms to which we are accustomed in democratic governments represent the cumulative effect of a multitude of events, unpremeditated as far as political effects were concerned and having unpredictable consequences.” For Dewey, as we develop new forms of self-government in any domain (a state, an office, a family), we have an opportunity to learn what works better and test its logic elsewhere.

See also: against state-centric political theorythe right to strikeChina teaches the value of political pluralism; explaining Dewey’s pragmatism; the truth in Hayek; the legacy of Elinor Ostrom and the Bloomington School; and why the deliberative democracy framework doesn’t quite work for me.

NCDD Confab Tomorrow and More D&D Events Upcoming

Kicking off this Wednesday’s webinar roundup with an enthusiastic reminder to join our Confab call tomorrow! This free call is co-hosted with the Bridge Alliance and will explore using the collaborative platform, Slack, for D&D movement building. We’d love for folks who have used Slack or are still currently using it to join the call and share their experience. The call is tomorrow, June 6th from 2-3 pm Eastern, 11 am-12 pm Pacific. Learn more and register to save your spot here!

Make sure you check out these additional great learning opportunities related to dialogue, deliberation, and civic engagement work! This week’s roundup features events from NCDD sponsor org The Courageous Leadership Project, NCDD member organizations Living Room Conversations and MetroQuest, as well as, from the Tamarack InstituteInternational Association of Facilitators (IAF), International Associate for Public Participation (IAP2), and more.

NCDD’s online D&D event roundup is a weekly compilation of the upcoming events happening in the digital world related to dialogue, deliberation, civic tech, engagement work, and more! Do you have a webinar or other digital event coming up that you’d like to share with the NCDD network? Please let us know in the comments section below or by emailing me at keiva[at]ncdd[dot]org, because we’d love to add it to the list!

Upcoming Online D&D Events: NCDD June Confab, Courageous Leadership Project, MetroQuest, Living Room Conversations, Tamarack, IAF, IAP2, and more!

NCDD & Bridge Alliance June Confab on Using Slack for D&D Movement Building

Confab bubble image

Thursday, June 6th
11 am Pacific, 2 pm Eastern

We are excited to co-host another Confab Call at the beginning of June, this time with our friends at the Bridge Alliance to explore the use of the collaboration tool, Slack. On this free call, we will discuss the capabilities of the platform for movement building around civic action and learn more about the development of Bridge Alliance’s new joint project, the Democracy Movement Slack Forum.

REGISTER: http://ncdd.org/29763

Play-in-Action in the Public Sphere: Play, Development and Social Justice

Thursday, June 6th
9 am Pacific, 12 pm Eastern

In June, the Play, Development and Social Justice series will feature the work of practitioners and activists in the areas of afterschool development, civic engagement, and equity of access to the benefits of play. The conversation will explore how play is successfully creating grassroots cultures of creativity, inclusion and democracy. International play scholar and activist Carrie Lobman will be joined by Antoine Joyce, who creates environments for wealthy business people, elected officials, inner city youth and police officers to play together in Dallas; Don Waisanen who is pioneering the use of improvisation and play at the university and in the political arena; and Danielle Marshall who uses play as a vehicle to drive social-emotional learning, teach conflict negotiation, and build community in schools for 20,000 children in Maryland.

REGISTER: https://conta.cc/2GNuYXp?fbclid=IwAR2hGAp5D_ubwu9dKoLUKv8BbVI0rilRTv1u-zdUqnK5QFc_iAVA9ip7ZgY

Online Living Room Conversation – Women, Leadership and Power: 90-Minute Conversation w/ Optional 30-Minute Bonus Round!

Thursday, June 6th
4 pm Pacific, 7 pm Eastern

Women are increasingly sought out and encouraged to assume leadership positions in many walks of life, from business to community organizations to politics. While some call for further changes towards greater equality, others raise cautions about erasing any gender distinctions in an attempt to “make everything the same.” Are there ways the further expansion of women’s rights can complement traditional structures in society or are they destined to be at war? This broad topic on women and leadership can lead to many other conversations. Check out the conversation guide.

REGISTER: www.livingroomconversations.org/event/women-leadership-and-power-90-minute-conversation-w-optional-30-minute-bonus-round/

Tamarack Webinar – Bridging the Gap: Repairing Relationships for Stronger Community Engagement

Tuesday, June 11th
10 am Pacific, 1 pm Eastern

Most of us recognize the need for and importance of engaging the communities we serve. Working to uphold the slogan“nothing about us without us”we might try to engage communities as much as possible. But engagement is a two-way street, and people who work in institutions and organizations sometimes find that the communities they hope to engage are hesitant or even resistant to engage. This can often be true when the relationship between institutions and communities is damaged, or where there is a lack of trust in the organization’s ability to engage in an open and honest way. With that in mind, what might those of us who work in institutions and organizations do? Through this webinar Lisa Attygalle and Galen MacLusky, Tamarack’s Directors of Community Engagement and Community Innovation will explore our thoughts on this issue, drawing upon our experiences in supporting community engagement across North America.

REGISTER: https://events.tamarackcommunity.ca/webinar-bridging-the-gap-repairing-relationships-stronger-community-engagement

IAP2 Monthly Webinar – Diversity and Inclusion in P2

Tuesday, June 11th
11 am Pacific, 2 pm Eastern

Carrie McIntosh’s session explores five key lessons learned from working with small communities on BC’s west coast. From closed Facebook groups that house rampant rumour mills, to client frustration that threatens to derail well-intentioned strategies, this session explores them all with a dose of humour. Participants will walk away with a list of practical steps they can take to create meaningful engagement outcomes for their clients and the communities they serve. Read the session description from the 2018 IAP2 North American Conference here.

REGISTER: https://iap2usa.org/event-3076943

The Courageous Leadership Project webinar – Brave, Honest Conversations™

Wednesday, June 12th
9 am Pacific, 12 pm Eastern

Some conversations are hard to have. Fear and discomfort build in your body and you avoid and procrastinate or pretend everything is fine. Sometimes you rush in with urgency, wanting to smooth things over, fix them, and make them better. Sometimes you go to battle stations, positioning the conversation so you have a higher chance of being on the “winning” side. NONE OF THIS WORKS. Instead, it usually makes a hard conversation harder; more divided, polarized, and disconnected from others. The more people involved, the harder the conversation can be. I believe that brave, honest conversations are how we solve the problems we face in our world – together.

In this webinar, we will cover: What is a Brave, Honest Conversation™? Why have one? What can change because of a brave, honest conversation? How do you have one? What do you need to think about and do? How do you prepare yourself for a brave, honest conversation?

REGISTER: www.bravelylead.com/events/bhcfreewebinar

MetroQuest webinar – Millennials to Boomers | How MDOT Involved 6,300 for Its LRTP

Wednesday, June 12th
11 am Pacific | 12 pm Mountain | 1 pm Central | 2 pm Eastern (1 hour)
Educational Credit Available (APA AICP CM)
Complimentary (FREE)

Is traditional public involvement getting old? While transportation matters to residents of all ages, few attend public meetings. That’s why Michigan DOT went online to engage the broader public when it began working on a completely new state long range transportation plan (SLRTP).

Times are changing. On June 12th, find out how Michigan DOT and WSP joined forces to engage 6,300 people to uncover their evolving transportation priorities for the Michigan Mobility 2045 SLRTP. Join Shane Peck, Anita Richardson, Brad Sharlow, and Kyle Haller as they share what they learned about public preferences for modal tradeoffs, infrastructure investments, intelligent technologies, and transit

REGISTER: http://go.metroquest.com/Millennials-to-Boomers-How-MDOTs-LRTP-Involved-6300.html

Training (free): The Nuts & Bolts of Living Room Conversations

Thursday, June 13th
2 pm Pacific, 5 pm Eastern

Join us for 60 minutes online to learn about Living Room Conversations. We’ll cover what a Living Room Conversation is, why we have them, and everything you need to know to get started hosting and/or participating in Living Room Conversations. This training is not required for participating in our conversations – we simply offer it for people who want to learn more about the Living Room Conversations practice. Space is limited to 12 people so that we can offer a more interactive experience. Please only RSVP if you are 100% certain that you can attend.

REGISTER: www.livingroomconversations.org/event/training-free-the-nuts-bolts-of-living-room-conversations-11/

Online Living Room Conversation: The Power of Empathy: 90-Minute Conversation w/ Optional 30-Minute Bonus Round!

Thursday, June 13th
4 pm Pacific, 7 pm Eastern

Empathy goes beyond concern or sympathy. Empathy is stepping into the shoes of another with the intention to better understand and feel what they are experiencing. The power of empathy can bridge our “us vs. them” perceptions and lead to new solutions, improved relationships, better strategies for social change, reduction in loneliness, and realization of our shared human needs and oneness. This conversation is about sharing experiences giving, receiving, and observing empathy. Here is the conversation guide.

REGISTER: www.livingroomconversations.org/event/the-power-of-empathy-90-minute-conversation-w-optional-30-minute-bonus-round/

International Association of Facilitators webinar – Sharing IAF Brand Best Practices

Friday, June 14th
9 am Pacific, 12 pm Eastern

Sharing IAF Brand Best Practices is a webinar to get inspired by the many ways members, chapters and events are branding their Facilitation Activities.

REGISTER: www.iaf-world.org/site/events/sharing-iaf-brand-best-practices-0

International Association of Facilitators webinar – Becoming a CPF with the IAF

Wednesday, June 19th
8 am Pacific, 11 am Eastern

Making the decision to seek the IAF Certified™ Professional Facilitator (CPF) accreditation can be hard. Common questions people ask are What’s involved? How much time will it take? Will I meet the requirements? and What if I don’t pass? In response to strong interest from members, we will be exploring these questions at a webinar with hosts that have years of experience as professional facilitators and as IAF Assessors.

REGISTER: www.iaf-world.org/site/events/webinar-becoming-cpf-iaf-9

Come Present at the 2019 Florida Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference!


My friends and fellow social studies educators, it is time to share your heroic ideas for social studies teaching and learning. Are you a practicing or retired teacher, teacher educator, researcher, or pre-service student? Do you know of better ways to reach ELL students in the social studies? Do you have a brilliant session on mindfulness you believe would benefit our community? Do you have research on best practice that would make a difference for teachers and students? Is there a great content session that you are eager to share with folks, whether that is relating to LGBTQ+ history and pedagogy or a new approach to considering the Founding Fathers? Is there a discussion of assessment that you want to have with like minded (and even not so like minded) colleagues? What about new ways to approach controversial issues?

If you have any of this, or more, join us in the fall at the Florida Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference, October 18-October 20 at the Florida Hotel and Conference Center in Orlando! Proposals are being accepted until June 15th, and we are eager to learn from you. This year’s theme is Heroes and Villains: Teaching in a Polarized World. We want YOU to present to and learn from your colleagues and friends!

You can submit your proposal through this link: Conference Proposals. We really hope to have you join us!

Don’t Miss Confab Call on Using Slack for D&D Movement Building

Friendly reminder about our upcoming Confab Call happening this Thursday with our friends at the Bridge Alliance to explore the use of the collaboration tool, Slack! We learn more about the development of the Bridge Alliance’s new joint project, the Democracy Movement Slack Forum, and discuss some best practices of the platform for movement building around civic action.

This free call will be on Thursday, June 6th from 2-3 pm Eastern, 11 am-12 pm PacificRegister today so you don’t miss out on this engaging call!reg-button-2

Slack is a collaboration platform that streamlines communication amongst members by consolidating text, email, group and instant messaging into one app. For the last few years, the platform has quickly grown in popularity as a great tool for connecting individuals and driving action.

For this Confab, we hope to explore how can Slack be used to further reduce silos amongst people doing dialogue and deliberation work and better cultivate connections to facilitate change. Our hope is that all of us who drive civic change can learn from other’s experiences with the platform to help our collective efforts thrive.

We will be joined by the Bridge Alliance and their partners, who will share more about the new Democracy Movement Slack being developed and how the experience has been so far. We’ll also ask others on the call to share their experiences or questions. The Confab will be an opportunity for those on the call who are also Bridge Alliance members to learn more about how to join the Slack group.

We’d love for folks who have used Slack or are still currently using it to join the call and share their experience. What are some of the benefits of using it and are there any challenges? This conversation will offer insight for a new effort underway on Slack by the Bridge Alliance, called the Democracy Movement Slack Forum; a co-creation with the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers, RepresentUS, and Unite America. This new project is in its developing stages now and is intended to be a transpartisan space for those in the Democracy Movement to communicate and collaborate.

Make sure you register today to secure your spot!

About Our Confab Co-Hosts 

Bridge Alliance is a coalition of over 90 organizations dedicated to rejuvenating America. With each organization focusing on a different sector of the movement, our members represent a combined three million supporters in the burgeoning field of civic reform and civil discourse.

About NCDD’s Confab Calls

Confab bubble imageNCDD’s Confab Calls are opportunities for members (and potential members) of NCDD to talk with and hear from innovators in our field about the work they’re doing and to connect with fellow members around shared interests. Membership in NCDD is encouraged but not required for participation. Confabs are free and open to all. Register today if you’d like to join us!

“the body of us all”: Anne Carson’s “The Glass Essay”

Anne Carson’s long poem entitled “The Glass Essay” relates how the narrator, having been dumped by her romantic partner, goes home to Canada to visit her mother (a difficult-sounding person–prone to rehashing old criticisms) and her father, now suffering from Alzheimer’s. Being a scholar, this narrator takes with her

… lot of books—

some for my mother, some for me
including The Collected Works Of Emily Brontë.
This is my favourite author.

She thinks about Emily and Charlotte Brontë, about herself, about her father and her mother. She feels strong emotions. For example:

Anger travels through me, pushes aside everything else in my heart,
pouring up the vents.
Every night I wake to this anger,

the soaked bed,
the hot pain box slamming me each way I move.
I want justice. Slam.

I want an explanation. Slam.
I want to curse the false friend who said I love you forever. Slam.
I reach up and switch on the bedside lamp. 

But the poem moves toward something that I can only call transcendence. The narrator concludes with a perspective and a moral concern that goes infinitely beyond herself and her own circumstances.

But how can you transcend your circumstances if you are a modernist writer who favors concrete images and objective correlatives? How can you transcend earthly pain if you cannot invoke God? (“I am uneasy with the compensatory model of female religious experience and yet ….”) How can you transcend the injustices you have faced if you believe that your identity as a woman matters–that not everyone has the same problems, that differences are important?

One answer, Anne Carson suggests, is time. “Days passed, months passed and I saw nothing.” She finally attains insight, but only after a long wait. Another answer is hard thinking. The narrator probes herself, nature, and other people. She asks the hard questions and debunks her own answers.

Most importantly, you need the courage to believe and say things that are un-ironic, explicitly ethical, and close to cliché:

I saw a high hill and on it a form shaped against hard air.

It could have been just a pole with some old cloth attached,
but as I came closer
I saw it was a human body

trying to stand against winds so terrible that the flesh was blowing off the bones.
And there was no pain.
The wind

was cleansing the bones.
They stood forth silver and necessary.
It was not my body, not a woman’s body, it was the body of us all.
It walked out of the light.

This is moving because it is so hard-won.

See also: on the moral dangers of cliché and on the proper use of moral clichés.

2019 FCSS Annual Conference!

We are all social studies teachers. We all teach, ultimately, the values of good citizenship, of civic life, and of what it means to be a participant in this great experiment we call the American nation. And, at its core, we teach our students that we should all want to be heroes in our own way. There are so many different examples of the ways that we as social studies teachers impart these lessons. Why not come share and learn from each other about this? Register to present, sponsor, or, wonderfully, attend and learn from your colleagues and friends at this falls Florida Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference!


The Florida Council for the Social Studies is accepting session proposals for the 2019 FCSS Conference at Florida Hotel and Conference Center in Orlando, Florida on October 18 – 20, 2019.

Submit your session proposal prior to June 1, 2019 –

· Presenters will be notified by July 15, 2019

· Presenters of accepted sessions must register by August 15, 2019 to confirm participation in the conference

Information about the FCSS conference can be found at: http://fcss.org/meetinginfo.php

Online registration is available at http://bit.ly/fcss19registration

Plan your stay!

The FCSS Conference hotel rate is $131 per night . The Florida Hotel and Conference Center $18.00 per day for amenities is waived. Reservations must be made prior to September 26, 2019.

An Overview of Civics in Florida

In 2010, the Florida Legislature unanimously adopted the Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Civics Education Act, which created a new statewide emphasis on civic learning. It required (1) that all middle school students complete a required course in civics; (2) that all middle school students (approximately 200,000 per year in Florida) take the statewide End-Of-Course Assessment (EOCA) at the end of 7th grade, which determines 30 percent of their grade for the year; (3) that civics content be included in the reading portion of the state’s English and Language Standards at every grade level from kindergarten through 12th; and (4) that student scores on the civics EOCA be incorporated into the computation of school grades under Florida’s School Accountability System (CS/HB 105, 2010). The EOCA is a multiple-choice assessment with approximately 60 questions aligned to the Florida middle school civics benchmarks. The four reporting categories that make up the middle school civics course include Origins and Purposes of Law and Government; Roles, Rights, and Responsibilities of Citizens; Government Policies and Political Processes; and Organization and Function of Government. Since the implementation of the assessment, student achievement has risen across all demographics, and 71% of all students taking the assessment during the 2017-2018 testing cycle passed the assessment with an achievement level of at least 3 (on a scale of 1 through 5).

The Four Reporting Categories

The four reporting categories within the civics course were developed by a committee of stakeholders to address areas of importance within civic learning while also seeking to differentiate the course from US History and, to a lesser degree, US Government. While the number of benchmarks in each category differ, there is clear evidence of a focus on the workings of government, the roles and responsibilities of citizens, and what we refer to as ‘Founding Documents’, particularly the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence.

Within each reporting category are a number of benchmarks that address the content to be taught. It is important to note, however, that these benchmarks are further broken down in the FLDOE Civics Test Item Specifications into Benchmark Clarifications, Content Limits, and Content Focus Terms. It is important to keep in mind that the Civics EOCA Test Item Specifications were created after the release of the Sunshine State Standards for Civics, which occurred in 2008. As such, the clarifications, limits, and content focus terms build on what may be left out of or be unclear in relation to the original standards and benchmarks.

The Benchmark Clarifications

The Benchmark Clarifications, it could be argued, are perhaps the most important element of the Civics Test Item Specifications. These clarifications provide deeper guidance to stakeholders on what to teach. Consider for example, Benchmark SS.7.C.3.12, which covers significant court cases that students should be familiar with. Table 1 provides an overview of the benchmark and related clarifications.

Benchmark Analyze the significance and outcomes of landmark Supreme Court cases including, but not limited to, Marbury v. Madison, Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Gideon v. Wainwright, Miranda v. Arizona, In re Gault, Tinker v. Des Moines, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, United States v. Nixon, and Bush v. Gore.
Benchmark Clarification 1 Students will use primary sources to assess the significance of these U.S. Supreme Court cases.
Benchmark Clarification 2 Students will evaluate how these U.S. Supreme Court cases have had an impact on society.
Benchmark Clarification 3 Students will recognize and/or apply constitutional principles and/or rights in relation to the relevant U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

Table 1: 2012 FLDOE Civics End-of-Course Test Item Specifications (FLDOE, 2012, p. 65)

In looking at the benchmark and clarifications provided in Table 1, note that it explains not only what aspects students need to know, but how they will be expected to demonstrate it. These emphasize the use of primary sources, critical thinking, and constitutional principles; indeed, this is reflective of the Test Item Specifications as a whole.

The Content Limits

‘Content Limits’, as defined by the Test Item Specifications, “define the range of content knowledge and degree of difficulty that should be assessed in the test items for the benchmark” (FLDOE, 2012, p. 16). In other words, they provide the teacher (and the students!) information on what they do not have to know in order to meet the expectations of this benchmark. For our sample Benchmark SS.7.C.3.12, for example, the Content Limit states that “Items will not require students to recall specific details of any U.S. Supreme Court case (FLDOE, 2012, p. 65). Within this context, then, students need to know the broad parameters and underlying constitutional principles about a particular case, but not specific details.

Content Focus Terms

‘Content Focus Terms’ address content not necessarily referenced in the benchmark or benchmark clarifications but should be known in order to demonstrate proficiency within the limits of that benchmark. Table 2 provides an example of the content focus for SS.7.C.3.12.

Benchmark Analyze the significance and outcomes of landmark Supreme Court cases including, but not limited to, Marbury v. Madison, Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Gideon v. Wainwright, Miranda v. Arizona, In re Gault, Tinker v. Des Moines, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, United States v. Nixon, and Bush v. Gore.
Benchmark Clarification 1 Students will use primary sources to assess the significance of these U.S. Supreme Court cases.
Benchmark Clarification 2 Students will evaluate how these U.S. Supreme Court cases have had an impact on society.
Benchmark Clarification 3 Students will recognize and/or apply constitutional principles and/or rights in relation to the relevant U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
Content Focus These terms are given in addition to those found in the standards, benchmarks, and benchmark clarifications. Additional items may include, but are not limited to, the following: District of Columbia v. Heller, juvenile rights, rights of the accused, and segregation.

Table 2: 2012 FLDOE Civics End-of-Course Test Item Specifications (w/Content Limit) (FLDOE, 2012, p. 65)

Within the context of this benchmark, then, students are also expected to be familiar with specific terms that connect to constitutional principles (such as the rights of the accused), specific case language (segregation and juvenile rights), and an additional significant court case that occurred between the adoption of the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards for Social Studies and the drafting of the Civics End of Course Assessment Test Item Specifications.

Taken together, the Benchmark Clarifications, Content Limits, and Content Focus Terms provide an explicit and detailed overview of what teachers are expected to teach and what students are expected to know for civics in Florida. So let us turn our attention to the four standards and consider what areas are covered throughout this course.

The Four Standards

The four main standards provide a course-long overview of what needs to be taught throughout the course. Each standard contains a particular number of benchmarks. All told, there are 40 benchmarks across 40 standards, and of these, 35 are directly assessed. A close review of the standards demonstrates the breadth of Florida’s approach to civics and the heavy emphasis placed on the Constitution and the structure and function of government.

Origins and Purposes of Law, Government, and the Political System

Table 3: Overview of Standard One

The first standard addresses the path towards the development of the US Constitution, beginning with the Enlightenment ideas that influenced the Framers and continuing through the drafting and implementation of the US Constitution. Generally speaking, students are expected be able to understand the arguments of the Declaration of Independence, know how the ideas of Montesquieu and Locke influenced the Founding Fathers, identify the problems with the Articles of Confederation, contrast the views of the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, explain the responsibilities of government as described in the Preamble, and understand separation of powers and checks and balances. There is a heavy focus in this standard on early principles that shaped an approach to American representative government.

Roles, Rights, and Responsibilities of Citizens

Table 4: Overview of Standard Two

The second standard dives deeper into elements of citizenship and civic engagement with government. It is a relatively broad category, covering elements of citizenship, our obligations, rights, and responsibilities under the Bill of Rights and our representative democratic system, elections, the media, and multiple perspectives. This standard also includes benchmarks that have students engaging in the practices of civic life, including elections, the justice system, and public policy. It should be noted here that much of this standard does indeed draw on the idea that the responsibilities of citizenship are just as important as the rights of citizenship.

The Principles, Functions, and Organization of Government

Table 5: Overview of Standard Three

The third standard goes heavy into the US Constitution, particularly Articles I, II, and III. In order to demonstrate proficiency within this category, students must learn how government is supposed to function, the powers of the three branches, the lawmaking process, the role of the courts, significant cases, and how federalism works. This standard also covers the expansion of rights through the amendment process and students also touch on the Florida Constitution. Again, however, we continue to see a heavy emphasis on the US Constitution.

US and the World

Table 6: Overview of Standard Four

The final overarching standard within Florida’s civics course dives into US foreign and domestic policy. This includes having students consider US foreign conflicts throughout the 20th and 21st century and understand the different ways each was addressed. Students are also expected to understand the difference and relationship between US foreign and domestic policy and citizens can engage with international organizations of various stripes. Interestingly, this standard’s focus on US foreign policy goes beyond the expectations of civics courses in many other states.

The Civics End of Course Assessment

Florida’s civics end of course assessment is a selected response assessment, developed in collaboration with Pearson, and has been a mandatory assessment for middle schoolers in Florida since 2013. The Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Civic Education Act does not require students to pass the exam, but it does require schools to count the exam as 30% of a student’s final grade in the course. The exam itself draws directly on the learning expectations and content found in the Civics End of Course Test Item Specifications, which itself includes sample items that preview the assessment. Teaching to the standards, benchmarks, and benchmark clarifications will best prepare students to succeed.  So what does this assessment look like?

The Structure of the Civics End of Course Assessment

The End of Course Assessment contains 52-56 items, on average, with some small variable number of these items being piloted in each testing cycle, thus not counting towards the final score. While the expectation is that students will complete the test in 160 minutes, in practice most schools provide students with as much time as they need to complete it. Each item on the assessment has a question and four options to choose from; the Civics End of Course Test Item Specifications provide item writers (and really all stakeholders) with clear instructions on how to construct said items, including appropriate wording, the use of plausible distractors, parallelism, and types of stimulus (FLDOE, 2012, pp. 2-4). At the same time, the item specifications make clear that the “… reading level of the test items should be grade 7, except for specifically assessed Civics terms or concepts” (FLDOE, 2012, p. 2).

One of the issues that often causes confusion for stakeholders is the difference between item difficulty and item cognitive complexity. Simply put, the cognitive complexity of items is stable from year to year, while at the same time, item difficulty might change depending on the students that take the test in a particular testing cycle. The psychometricians that deal with validity, reliability, and scoring of the assessment cannot identify item difficulty until after students have taken the test. Figure 1 illustrates the determination of item difficulty.

item difficulty
Figure 1: Item Difficulty

Item difficulty, then, refers to how many students might get a question correct; it can change with each administration of the assessment. Cognitive complexity, on the other hand, remains consistent and is identified at the formal item review that takes place each fall to review new sets of items provided by Pearson. Cognitive complexity, in simple terms, refers to how many mental steps students must go through in order to answer a question. The Florida Civics End of Course Assessment uses Webb’s Depth of Knowledge as a complexity framework, and items are classified as being low, moderate, or high complexity items. It should be noted, as well, that you can have an item that is low complexity and high difficulty; remember that difficulty is about how many students get the question correct. Page 12 of the Florida Civics End of Course Assessment contains an overview of activities across cognitive complexity levels in order to provide teachers with guidance on both instruction and assessment. A large part of each assessment is made up of moderate complexity items; table 7 provides a breakdown of cognitive complexity in relation to test construction.


Table 7: Percentage of Points by Cognitive Complexity Level for Civics EOC Assessment

The Development, Review and Revision Process

Since the beginning of the Civics End of Course Assessment development process, items have been provided to the Test Development Center (a division of the Florida Department of Education) by Pearson. Each year, Pearson provides approximately 150 to 200 new items for review and eventual piloting across upcoming testing cycles. These items are developed in a collaboration between Pearson and state assessment personnel, and follows a generally fixed process, and are generally intended to provide new items across every benchmark.

At the start of the development cycle, Pearson provides item writers (none of whom are practicing Florida teachers in order to avoid conflicts of interest) with a set item order of anywhere between 15 and 25 items on average. Writers are provided with the benchmark, benchmark clarification, content focus term (if applicable) and cognitive complexity level they are asked to write to. These are then submitted to Pearson for internal review and approval and provided to the state for the next phase of the review process. There are a number of steps within that process that involve a back and forth between the Social Studies Test Development Coordinator and Pearson, but eventually, items go out to a committee of community members and eventually educators.

The Bias and Sensitivity Committee reviews items for areas of concern that could cause potential issues for students and provide a report on identified issues to the Social Studies Test Development Coordinator and to Pearson. This report is then shared with Item Review Committee. This last committee is made up of practicing civics teachers, teacher leaders, district social studies supervisors, and content area experts, and their main task is to review the penultimate draft of items for a number of areas. Figure 2 provides an overview of what these item reviewers are looking for.


Figure 2: The Item Review Process

Each individual at the table during item review brings with them experience in or expertise with civics instruction and content as addressed by Florida’s benchmarks, and is assigned one particular role during the process. One person may be tasked with identifying the cognitive complexity (which may differ from that identified by the original item writer), for example, while another may be asked to ensure that the content of the item is accurate. However, following the initial table response on an item, each reviewer is allowed to provide a perspective across each of the 9 areas addressed in Figure 2. Pearson ensures that they have staff present to assist in revising items that may require some additional work. Once items have been accepted, they are then sent on to the psychometricians, who will determine validity and reliability through piloting them items on upcoming assessments.

This brings us, then, to instruction. What does all of this look like in the classroom?

What Gets Taught in the Civics Classroom?

Research done under the auspices of the Lou Frey Institute and the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement following the 2015-2016 testing cycle provides a general perspective on teaching the civics benchmarks in Florida classrooms. The research summarized in this section is provided in greater detail in a report authored by Dr. Racine Jacques and provided at the Lou Frey Institute website (http://loufreyinstitute.org/reports/2). The reader is encouraged to review the report available at the provided link.

As mentioned earlier, 35 of the 40 benchmarks are directly assessed by the end of course assessment. The other 5 are grouped with connected benchmarks and assessed through them. According to research, coverage is a significant issue and an area of concern. Approximately half of the more than 400 civics teachers that were surveyed felt that they were unable to adequately cover all assessed benchmarks over the course of the school year. Looking at the data, the average number of omitted benchmarks was 3. One of the most common groups of benchmarks that were omitted come from Standard 4 and related to a consideration of US foreign policy within a civics education context. This was likely less because of difficulty and more because they simply ran out of time to cover the material. Figure 3 provides and illustration of which benchmarks were most often omitted from instruction.

Figure 3: The Most Common Omitted Benchmarks

At the same time, respondents felt that they had some significant issues in adequately instructing students in some benchmarks.  SS.7.C.2.12, for example, is an action civics oriented benchmark that asks students to involve themselves in considerations of public policy. Other areas of concernfrom a recent survey of Florida social studies district supervisors include SS.7.C.2.5, around individual rights; SS.7.C.2.10, around the ways in which media, individuals, and interest groups impact government; SS.7.C.3.4, around federalism; and SS.7.C.3.5, around the amendment process. Anecdotal observations by FJCC staff, gained through work with practitioners, also indicate significant instructional concerns around the many Supreme Court cases and constitutional principles contained in SS.7.C.3.12.

As described in the survey, the reasons for both difficulty of instruction and lack of instruction generally boiled down to 3 main explanations: student responsibility, teacher responsibility, or structural constraints. Student responsibility often boiled down to the supposed inability of the student to learn the material, while teacher responsibility pointed to issues with teacher content knowledge. Structural constraints could, in short, be retitled as ‘Issues with time’; for the most part, respondents who identified structural constraints as an issue struggled to cover the material adequately in the time provided. For more information on this aspect of the research survey, please read the original report available at  http://loufreyinstitute.org/reports/2.

How Does Civics Get Taught in Florida Classrooms?

One of the areas of interest that the aforementioned study asked respondents to consider was how they actually approach civics instruction. Perhaps not surprisingly considering the content of the civics course, more than 90% of teachers claimed to address current events a number of times throughout the year, which 3/4ths of all teachers claiming they address current events every week. A similar fraction of teachers also involved their students in civic learning through the use of computer games, primarily using the popular ‘iCivics’ platform (https://www.icivics.org/). Almost 40% of teachers said they involved students in debates at least once or twice a month. It should be noted here, however, that how they involve students in debates what these debates look like is not clear. Involving students in ‘lived civics’ does occur to at least some degree. Mock elections, mock trials, service learning, and classroom discussions and debates all had some level of participation.

When it comes to resources, Figure 4 provides a good overview of the most used resources among respondents to the survey.

Primary Resources

Figure 4: Primary Instructional Resources

Based on the data, resources from iCivics and the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship (FJCC) are the most commonly used resources for civics instruction. iCivics is perhaps best known for its games, while FJCC (http://floridacitizen.org/) offers a more diverse collection of tools, including lesson plans, content videos, practice assessments, and more. More recently, FJCC launched Civics360 (http://civics360.org/), with more than 100,000 registered users and a student-oriented approach to instructional tools (note that Civics360 did not exist at the time of the original research summarized here). For a deeper discussion of resource selection and implementation, please read the original report available at  http://loufreyinstitute.org/reports/2.


A Word on Florida’s National Reputation

Any summary of civic education in Florida would be lacking without some mention of Florida’s national reputation for civic learning and instruction. Since the passage of the Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Civics Education Act, national attention has focused on Florida as one of the few states with a mandatory and comprehensive civics course at any level, let alone one with a high stakes assessment attached to it. The CivXNow Coalition, made up the nation’s leading philanthropic, academic, and instructional supports of civic education, has identified Florida’s model of success as one for states to emulate:

“If every state enacted a policy like Florida’s–and consistently supported that legislation with funds for professional development, materials, assessment, and other interventions–America’s young people would be on course for more active and informed civic engagement throughout their adulthood as well. That means that pronounced civic deficits in Florida to date–low levels of voter turnout, membership in groups, trust, and volunteering–will begin to improve, and civil society will be stronger.” (Levine & Kawashima-Ginsberg, 2017, p. 14).

More information on Florida’s national reputation, and the lessons it provides the nation, is available at CivXNow ( https://www.civxnow.org/).


asking the public to do the reading

Buzzfeed’s Tanya Chen assembles lots of tweets and other quotes that analogize Bob Mueller to a frustrated college instructor. The American people are his students. Since we didn’t do the reading, we want him to explain it all in simple terms.

These are amusing responses, but they raise the question of what millions of Americans are really obligated to read. I once heard a Supreme Court justice say (to the approbation of the audience in the room) that citizens shouldn’t criticize judicial decisions unless they have read them, presumably in full. Some environmentalists despair that most people didn’t read the last big Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report for themselves. It seems outrageous that the President of the United States, who swore to uphold the Constitution, would fail a basic test of its contents. (For instance, he expects the judiciary to review an impeachment process.)

But once you put several of these assignments together, it makes for a daunting syllabus.

And it depends on what else you would do with your time. Instead of reading the Mueller Report, I have actually spent hours neurotically checking second-hand opinions about the report in order to root for the ones that say that Trump is in big trouble and boo the ones that say he’s been exonerated. That was a bad decision about how to allocate my attention. If I’d spent the same hours reading the report, I might have learned something. However, the text of the report would not change my opinions and behavior in a way that would matter for the country. So it would have been wiser still for me to spend my time not on the Mueller Report, nor on the endless second-hand commentary, but rather (for example) on the work of the astoundingly creative Anne Carson.

I start with faith that certain responsible summaries of the Mueller Report will give me what I need to know. I then waste time reading all the other commentary in the light of what I already believe. If I took Sean Hannity to be the responsible commentator instead of Lawfare or the New York Times, my behavior would be exactly the same but my conclusions would be the opposite. The problem is deciding who is the responsible intermediary, and you can’t do that with 100% certainty unless you read the original text for yourself. But again, it is not obvious that we are morally obliged to understand the Mueller Report with 100% certainty, when there are other things to do with our day.

The Great Professor in the Sky definitely expects us to do the reading. But I am not sure we are all obliged to take Professor Mueller’s class. We do face a mandatory exam called the 2020 election, but it will cover a whole lot of material, and you can do fine on it even if you didn’t take Mueller.

Your responsibility as a citizen–as distinct from your duty as a person–obliges you to collect information and insights about public affairs. (Your duty as a person is to read Anne Carson.) But there is an awful lot to learn about public affairs, of which the Mueller Report is only one sample. What bothers me is the implication that everyone should have mastered that particular body of material, when no one can understand everything that matters.

PACE Announces Funding for Faith & Democracy Initiative

ICYMI – There is a great funding opportunity that was just announced yesterday by the Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE) to fund an initiative exploring the intersection of faith and democracy. PACE is offering $300k to support 5-7 projects that investigate the question, How can faith be a means to bridge divides and foster respect and cooperation in our democracy? Those accepted will join a year-long peer Learning Community to serve as a testing lab on key questions and share learnings. RFPs are now open and applications are being accepted until July 1st. We encourage you to share this with your networks! You can read the announcement below and find the original version on the PACE site here.

Faith In/And Democracy: A Funding and Learning Initiative from PACE

Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE) has launched a pilot funding and learning initiative to invest in and promote engagement at the intersection of faith and democracy. The Faith In/And Democracy initiative will provide about $300,000 in grant support to 5-7 projects that explore this driving question: How can faith be a means to bridge divides and foster respect and cooperation in our democracy?  The Request for Proposals opens today; applications are open until July 1, 2019.

PACE is a community of funders that invest in the sustaining elements of democracy and civic life in the U.S.  “This exploration is a natural extension of PACE’s mission to deepen and enrich philanthropy’s support of democracy and civic life in the U.S.” said Kristen Cambell, Executive Director of PACE. “Faith communities have been a vibrant part of our civic fabric throughout the history of our nation.  With this project, we hope to uncover ways in which faith can serve to ease the divisions that plague our political, civic, and social processes.”

At this important moment in our democracy, many civic engagement funders and practitioners have redoubled efforts to bridge social and political divides.  This new initiative focuses on a largely unexplored connection point for bridge building: the power and potential of faith as a catalyst. In order to thrive, our democracy requires understanding, tolerance, and empathy across difference; this initiative seeks to uplift efforts to shift divisive perceptions of faith communities and build narratives about the power and potential of faith to bolster engagement in democracy and civic life.

While many institutions seek to engage people of faith in bridge-building and pluralism efforts, few organizations are funding specific interventions to engage people of faith in using their faith to support the well-being of democracy. Fewer still are considering the ways in which faith can serve to ease divisions that plague our political processes.  This pilot initiative led by PACE represents a meaningful step toward filling this gap. “We see this as a new mechanism of support to our members, as well as a vehicle for PACE to contribute learning and leadership to our field,” added Cambell. The initiative is inspired by PACE members and catalyzed in partnership with the Fetzer Institute and the Democracy Fund, as well as additional members of an Advisory Committee.

Embracing the exploratory nature of the initiative, a central aim of the effort is learning: in addition to funding 5-7 projects, PACE will launch a cohort-based, year-long peer Learning Community for those engaged with the initiative. This community will serve as a “laboratory” to test key questions about learning and impact, and enable us to reflect those learnings to funders, nonprofits, and our fields more broadly.

To learn more about the initiative, please visit PACEfunders.org/faith.  To access the full RFP and to apply, click here.

You can find the original version of this announcement on the PACE site at www.pacefunders.org/faith-in-and-democracy/.