Civic Education in Florida

The new governor in Florida, Ron DeSantis, has come into office pledging a priority focus on civic education in Florida.

“We’re going to look to make sure that civics is a priority in Florida. [Corcoran] is going to be traveling the state, meeting with people, talking about what has worked in the past and what hasn’t. What other states have done to be successful,” DeSantis said.

So what IS going on with civics in Florida? In this post, we’ll address that question, and look at where civics stands in Florida as of 2019.

Florida is a National Leader

We often hear jokes about ‘Florida Man’, and how crazy Florida can be. But there is a reputation Florida has that we can be proud of: we are a national role model in civic education!

The efforts that have been by the Florida legislature, our school districts, our teachers, and our universities are a national example of how to implement a civic education model. In the words of the civic education researchers Peter Levine and Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg,

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.

You can read more about Florida’s civic education success here, in the CivXNow Summit white paper.

The Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Civic Education Act

Any discussion of civics in Florida begins with the Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Civic Education Act. Passed in 2010, this Act required the creation and implementation of a civics course in middle school. This course includes an end-of-course exam that counts as 30% of a student’s final grade, as well as for school grade and teacher evaluation. In addition, in order to go on to high school, students MUST pass civics. So since at least 2013, as civics was implemented, Florida has had a strong civic education initiative. Every middle school student in the state of Florida MUST pass civics.

What Is Required? 

The middle school civics course in Florida contains 40 benchmarks, 35 of which are directly assessed on the End of Course Assessment. The standards are traditionally organized into 4 reporting categories:

  • Origins and Purposes of Law and Government
  • Roles, Rights, and Responsibilities of Citizens
  • Government Policies and Political Processes
  • Organization and Function of Government

You can further break these down into 9 topic areas that cover a wide variety of civics content and benchmarks:
360 areas

So, what is covered in these benchmarks? Essentially, the benchmarks address the comprehensive knowledge that students need to be engaged with civic life in the United States, from the workings of the US Constitution to the role of political parties in the United States and everything in between! You can review each of the benchmarks below, organized by reporting category. Click on the link to go to Florida Joint Center for Citizenship resources for each one!

Origins and Purposes of Law and Government

Reporting Category One

Benchmark Resources Description
SS.7.C.1.1 Recognize how Enlightenment ideas including Montesquieu’s view of separation of power and John Locke’s theories related to natural law and how Locke’s social contract influenced the Founding Fathers.
SS.7.C.1.2 Trace the impact that the Magna Carta, English Bill of Rights, Mayflower Compact, and Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” had on colonists’ views of government.
SS.7.C.1.3 Describe how English policies and responses to colonial concerns led to the writing of the Declaration of Independence.
SS.7.C.1.4 Analyze the ideas (natural rights, role of the government) and complaints set forth in the Declaration of Independence.
SS.7.C.1.5 Identify how the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation led to the writing of the Constitution.
SS.7.C.1.6 Interpret the intentions of the Preamble of the Constitution.
SS.7.C.1.7 Describe how the Constitution limits the powers of government through separation of powers and checks and balances.
SS.7.C.1.8 Explain the viewpoints of the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists regarding the ratification of the Constitution and inclusion of a bill of rights.
SS.7.C.1.9 Define the rule of law and recognize its influence on the development of the American legal, political, and governmental systems.
SS.7.C.3.10 Identify sources and types (civil, criminal, constitutional, military) of law.

Roles, Rights, and Responsibilities of Citizens

Reporting Category Two

Benchmark Resources Description
SS.7.C.2.1 Define the term “citizen,” and identify legal means of becoming a United States citizen.
SS.7.C.2.2 Evaluate the obligations citizens have to obey laws, pay taxes, defend the nation, and serve on juries.
Also Assesses: SS.7.C.2.3—Experience the responsibilities of citizens at the local, state, or federal levels.
Also Assesses: SS.7.C.2.14—Conduct a service project to further the public good.
SS.7.C.2.4 Evaluate rights contained in the Bill of Rights and other amendments to the Constitution.
SS.7.C.2.5 Distinguish how the Constitution safeguards and limits individual rights.
SS.7.C.3.6 Evaluate Constitutional rights and their impact on individuals and society.
SS.7.C.3.7 Analyze the impact of the 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th, 24th, and 26th amendments on participation of minority groups in the American political process.
SS.7.C.3.12 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. Kuhlmier, United States v. Nixon, and Bush v. Gore.

Government Policies and Political Processes

Reporting Category Three

Benchmark Resources Description
SS.7.C.2.8 Identify America’s current political parties, and illustrate their ideas about government.
SS.7.C.2.9 Evaluate candidates for political office by analyzing their qualifications, experience, issue-based platforms, debates, and political ads.
Also Assesses: SS.7.C.2.7—Conduct a mock election to demonstrate the voting process and its impact on a school, community, or local level.
SS.7.C.2.10 Examine the impact of media, individuals, and interest groups on monitoring and influencing government.
SS.7.C.2.11 Analyze media and political communications (bias, symbolism, propaganda).
SS.7.C.2.12 Develop a plan to resolve a state or local problem by researching public policy alternatives, identifying appropriate government agencies to address the issue, and determining a course of action.
SS.7.C.2.13 Examine multiple perspectives on public and current issues.
SS.7.C.4.1 Differentiate concepts related to United States domestic and foreign policy.
SS.7.C.4.2 Recognize government and citizen participation in international organizations.
SS.7.C.4.3 Describe examples of how the United States has dealt with international conflicts.

Organization and Function of Government

Reporting Category Four

Benchmark Resources Description
SS.7.C.3.1 Compare different forms of government (direct democracy, representative democracy, socialism, communism, monarchy, oligarchy, autocracy).
SS.7.C.3.2 Compare parliamentary, federal, confederal, and unitary systems of government.
SS.7.C.3.3 Illustrate the structure and function (three branches of government established in Articles I, II, and III with corresponding powers) of government in the United States as established in the Constitution.
SS.7.C.3.4 Identify the relationship and division of powers between the federal government and state governments.
SS.7.C.3.5 Explain the Constitutional amendment process.
SS.7.C.3.8 Analyze the structure, functions, and processes of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
Also Assesses: SS.7.C.3.9—Illustrate the law making process at the local, state, and federal levels.
SS.7.C.3.11 Diagram the levels, functions, and powers of courts at the state and federal levels.
Also Assesses: SS. 7.C.2.6—Simulate the trial process and the role of juries in the administration of justice.
SS.7.C.3.13 Compare the constitutions of the United States and Florida.
SS.7.C.3.14 Differentiate between local, state, and federal governments’ obligations and services.

Each benchmark is further broken down into individual benchmark clarifications that tell stakeholders what they are expected to know. You can get a copy of these clarifications here, provided in the Test Item Specifications.

What Does the Data Say? 

Good news on the data front when it comes to civics! As of the 2018 Civics EOCA administration, 71% of all students that took the exam scored a 3, 4, or 5. What this means is that 71% of all students passed the Civics End Of Course Assessment. This is 10 percentage points higher than the initial administration from 2014! As the charts below (from the Florida Department of Education) indicate, we are also seeing some positive growth among minority students as well. This is a trend that we hope to see continue, as FJCC, FLREA, and other organizations continue to work hard to provide resources and support for teachers and students.





So What Needs to Improve? 

Without a doubt, Florida has seen significant positive results from the implementation of civic education at the middle school level. At this point, as a state, we are doing well with the knowledge aspect. But there is certainly room for improvement. At FJCC, we have been working to build a collection of resources and supports that address the skills and dispositions that can be used in conjunction with the knowledge that students have gained. You know how government works, and the role the Constitution plays in your life. So what can you do with that knowledge? We are working with organizations like the Civics Renewal Network, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Florida, the Constitutional Rights Foundation, and others to improve opportunities for engagement.


We also need to do far more in elementary schools. That, however, is a bit of a sticky wicket, as social studies as a whole has struggled for attention in elementary schools; the pressure of preparing students for math, ELA, and science assessments has often crowded out untested content areas like social studies, both here and Florida and nationally.

Elem Social Studies CCSSO

That beings said, there ARE some good resources out there, like FJCC’s own Civics in a Snap. Civics in a Snap is a collection of K-5 lessons around civics content and questions that can be done in an elementary class in about 15 to 20 minutes. Take a look!


We are also thinking about ways in which we can do more at the high school level to engage students in experiential learning around civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions.


Moving Forward

We at the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at the Lou Frey Institute at the University of Central Florida applaud the governor’s call for a prioritization of civic education. We hope that it includes an in depth consideration of ways in which we get students to engage in civic life at all levels, and a renewed focus on getting social studies back into the elementary schools. And the continued leadership that Florida has shown in quality civics teaching and learning!

And be sure to check out Civics360 to find videos and readings related to the civics content that kids here in Florida need to learn! It’s all free!



British exceptionalism 2: the unique nature of the aristocracy

(Newark, DE) In 2010, I wrote a post entitled “British exceptionalism: how the UK is different from Europe.” It still draws traffic these days, probably because people want to understand Brexit and the roots of anti-“European” sentiment in a country that most Americans consider a part of Europe. My theme was the dramatically different level of economic development in Britain vs. continental Europe ca. 1930. I doubt that such differences explain Brexit, but I remain interested in ways that the UK has diverged from its continental neighbors.

Here’s another way. William D. Rubenstien observes, “In 1789…, it is generally estimated that there were about 250,000 members of the French nobility, but only about 300 members of the British aristocracy!” In France and (I believe) in every continental country, the aristocracy was a substantial caste, delimited by naming conventions and granted hereditary privileges under the law. The French nobility voted away their own privileges during the heady night of August 4, 1789, but until then, they had been exempt from regular taxes while permitted to tax peasants, allowed to wear swords and hunt, guaranteed a separate justice system, and in many other ways, set apart. These privileges applied to whole extended families and were by no means limited to the individuals who held the aristocratic fiefs and titles, from baron up to duke.

In contrast, since the Middle Ages, the English (and then the British) aristocracy consisted of the “peers” who held specific titles, of which there were only a few hundred. These titles were possessions that could be granted, inherited, or confiscated, although not sold. One person held each title at a time (or one couple, if you consider married peers to share in a title). Peers had very limited privileges, such as the right to sit in the House of Lords and be tried there. The rest of their extended families were not aristocrats.

Britain also had (and to some extent still has) a gentry, composed of ladies and gentlemen. Traditionally, they were defined as people who made their living from rents on land, clerical or military offices, or professional fees for lawyering or doctoring–not from labor or “trade.” As economic power shifted to merchants and manufacturers, they increasingly entered the gentry–no longer having to buy land or professionally educate their sons to count as gentlemen.

More like a class than a caste, the gentry has been defined by its social role and power. That makes the borders fuzzy. It creates some opportunities for mobility, and also a stronger ideological assumption that upward mobility (as opposed to equality) is the hallmark of a just society. I’d speculate that this is one reason “neoliberalism” has more of a hold in the UK (especially England) than it does on the Continent.

See also: British exceptionalism: how the UK is different from Europe; two approaches to social capital: Bourdieu vs. the American literaturewhen social advantage persists for millenniasorting out human welfare, equity and mobility; and why some forms of advantage are more stubborn than others.

NCDD Member Discount on TPC’s IAP2 2019 Trainings

The new year is a great time to learn some new skills and we encourage folks to check out the newly released training schedule from NCDD member org The Participation Company. TCP offers certification in the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2)‘s model, and dues-paying NCDD members get a discount on registration! You can read more about the trainings in the TCP announcement below and learn more here.

The Participation Company’s 2019 Training Events

If you work in communications, public relations, public affairs, planning, public outreach and understanding, community development, advocacy, or lobbying, this training will help you to increase your skills and to be of even greater value to your employer.

This is your chance to join the many thousands of practitioners worldwide who have completed the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) certificate training.

The Participation Company (TPC) offers discounted rates to members of AICP, ICMA, IAP2, and NCDD. 

AICP members can earn Certification Maintenance (CM) credits for these courses.

Foundations in Public Participation (5-Day) Certificate Program:

Planning for Effective Public Participation (3-Days) and/or *Techniques for Effective Public Participation (2-Days)

  • Mar. 4-8 in Arlington, VA (5-Days, Both Planning & Techniques)
  • Mar. 6-8 in Fort Collins, CO (3-Day Planning)
  • Mar. 25-29 in Las Vegas, NV (5-Days, Both Planning & Techniques)
  • Mar. 25-29 in Charlotte, NC (5-Days, Both Planning & Techniques)
  • Apr. 2-3 in Fort Collins, CO (2-Day Techniques)
  • Apr. 29-May 3 in Chicago, IL (5-Days, Both Planning & Techniques

*The 3-Day Planning training is a prerequisite to Techniques training

We’re also working to add Denver and Salt Lake City for spring/summer and Phoenix in November. Please check our calendar for updates.

IAP2’s Strategies for Dealing with Opposition and Outrage in Public Participation (2-Days)
formally Emotion, Outrage – newly revised and renamed

  • Mar. 28-29 in Phoenix, AZ
  • Apr. 4-5 in Cleveland, OH
  • Jul. 25-26 in Chicago, IL
  • Oct. 7-8 in Saint Paul, MN

Register online

The Participation Company can also assist you and your organization in other endeavors! Our team of highly experienced professionals help government and business clients manage public issues to accomplish client’s objectives. We can plan and manage your participation project from start to finish. We can provide strategic advice and direction. We can coach and mentor your staff and managers. We help you build agreements and craft durable and defensible decisions.

You can find the original version of this announcement on the TPC site at

James Madison in favor of majority rule

The James Madison who contributed to the Federalist Papers is famous for a system of checks and balances meant to limit the power of the majority, because the many might turn against the few and the common good. This was before the United States came into being and before Madison had experience in electoral politics and national office. By 1834, the federal system had operated for 45 years and Madison had held several offices in it, including president. After that experience, he shifted in a majoritarian direction, at least according to this unsent letter. (H/t Ian Shapiro, Politics Against Domination, p. 62).

Madison first says (we don’t know to whom),

You justly take alarm at the new doctrine that a majority Govt. is of all Govts. the most oppressive. The doctrine strikes at the root of Republicanism, and if pursued into its consequences, must terminate in absolute monarchy, with a standing military force; such alone being impartial between its subjects, and alone capable of overpowering majorities as well as minorities.

Madison reviews the arguments that majority rule will become more dangerous as a jurisdiction grows in extent and as it encompasses greater economic diversity, because then huge factions will be able to dominate small and scattered minorities. He counters that differences of interest and identify emerge at all scales, “even in corporations [that] have the greatest apparent simplicity & identity of pursuits & interests.”

Acceding to the majority is generally a better choice than trying to dominate them; and the problem is least serious at a continental scale. The states, for example, are more likely to suffer from conflicts between majorities and minorities than the federal government is, and things were worse in the states before they came under federal sovereignty:

whatever may have been the just complaints of unequal laws, and sectional partialities, under the Majority Govt. of the U. S. it may be confidently observed that the abuses have been less frequent and less palpable than those which disfigured the administrations of the State Govts. whilst all the effective powers of sovereignty were separately exercised by them …

Madison’s argument in favor of majoritarianism is not that doing what the majority wants is automatically wisest and most just, but that it beats the alternatives:

Those who denounce majority Govts altogether because they may have an interest in abusing their power, denounce at the same time all Republican Govt. and must maintain that minority Govts. would feel less of the bias of interest, or the seductions of power.

He concludes with these theses:

[1] no Government of human device, & human administration can be perfect; [2] that which is the least imperfect is therefore the best Govt. [3] the abuses of all other Govts. have led to the preference of Republican Govt. is the best of all governments because the least imperfect. [4] the vital principle of Repub: Govt. is the lex majoris partis, the will of the majority; [5] if the will of a majority can not be trusted where there are diversified conflicting interests, it can be trusted no where because such interests exist every where ..

Madison wouldn’t call himself a “democrat,” because for him (in this letter and elsewhere) democracy means direct rule by the citizens “assembled in mass.” But he would–and did–call himself a “republican,” and for him the “vital principle” of republicanism is majority-rule.

See also: do we live in a republic or a democracy?; a Democratic Republican Federalist.

NCDD Confab with NCL and the Weekly Roundup!

We have a special announcement to add to the list of great events happening over the next week! On Wednesday February 13th, we are co-hosting our next NCDD Confab call with the National Civic League. This free call will be an opportunity to learn more about the All-American City Awards, hear from past awardees, and learn how to win this prestigious award. We encourage you to check these webinars happening earlier in the week from NCDD member orgs, National Issues Forums InstituteNew Directions CollaborativeLiving Room Conversations, International Associate for Public Participation, and National Civic League.

Do you have a webinar or other 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!

Online Roundup: the February NCDD-NCL Confab, NIFI, New Directions, Living Room Conversations, IAP2, National Civic League

National Issues Forums Institute – February CGA Moderator Training

Tues, Feb 5th and Weds, Feb 6th
9:30 am Pacific, 12:30 pm Eastern

Join this workshop on how to moderate a Common Ground for Action (CGA) deliberative forum.
Part one of the workshop is: Tuesday February 5th @ 12:30p ET/9:30am PDT; Part two is February 6th @ 12:30p ET/9:30am PDT. Please plan to attend both sessions.

In session one (February 5th) we will participate in our own CGA forum to get the participant experience. We will debrief when we meet again on Wednesday Feb 6th.

In session two (February 6th), we will discuss how to set up a CGA, what the responsibilities of a CGA moderator are, and hacks and tricks for moderating. We will then work in partners to set up and moderate a forum. We will conclude with a questions and answers about how to integrate CGA into your practice, classroom, and/or community work. For this session, we will use Zoom.


New Directions Collaborative webinar  – Meetings That Do More

Wednesday, February 6
12 pm – 2 pm Eastern

Imagine leaving a meeting feeling inspired, energized by new ideas, with enhanced goodwill toward your colleagues and a shared sense of clarity on where to go next. In this interactive on-line workshop, you will learn practical tools for creating meetings that deliver multiple benefits. Key topics include:

  • How to clarify the strategic context and range of outcomes for a meeting
  • How to frame strategic questions for the group to explore
  • An introduction to, and experience of, participatory meeting methods that can also work on-line
  • How to structure an agenda with samples of agenda designs

The workshop will be held on Zoom video conferencing where you will experience how to host effective meetings virtually, including with small group conversations. You will receive several handouts full of resources and guidance to help you design and facilitate future meetings.

Beth Tener of New Directions Collaborative will facilitate, sharing methods she has practiced in work with over 150 organizations and collaborative initiatives, concerning socially responsible business, sustainability, local food systems, education, climate action, racial equity, and transportation.

This workshop is the first in a series. You can attend one or the series.

Workshop fee is $70. Please click below to register.

If this fee is a barrier to participating, please contact Beth at – discounts are available to make this accessible to all interested.


Living Room Conversations webinar – Free Speech, Fighting Words, and Violence

Wednesday, February 6th
4:30-6 pm Pacific, 4-5:30 pm Eastern

Join us for a free online (using Zoom) Living Room Conversation on the topic of Free Speech, Fighting Words, & Violence. Please see the conversation guide for this topic. Some of the questions explored include:

  • How do we protect free speech and ensure public safety despite ongoing threats of violence?
  • Have you had a personal experience where free speech was inhibited? Or have you ever felt harmed by the speech of others?
  • How do we decide what our collective, social morality is? What is the federal government’s role?

You will need a device with a webcam to participate (preferably a computer or tablet rather than a cell phone).

Please only sign up for a place in this conversation if you are 100% certain that you can join – and thank you – we have many folks waiting to have Living Room Conversations and hope to have 100% attendance. If you need to cancel please return to Eventbrite to cancel your ticket so someone on the waitlist may attend.

A link to join the conversation and additional details will be sent to you by no later than the day before the conversation. The conversation host is Beth R.


Living Room Conversations webinar – Status & Privilege

Thursday, February 7th
2-3:30 pm Pacific, 5-7:30 pm Eastern

Join us for a free online (using Zoom) Living Room Conversation on the topic of Status & Privilege. Please see the conversation guide for this topic. Some of the questions explored include:

  • What are the privileges of your status?
  • What do you value and how is that connected to your status or privilege?
  • How does status, or lack of status, affect your sense of personal dignity? How have you noticed it impacting others?

You will need a device with a webcam to participate (preferably a computer or tablet rather than a cell phone).

Please only sign up for a place in this conversation if you are 100% certain that you can join – and thank you – we have many folks waiting to have Living Room Conversations and hope to have 100% attendance. If you need to cancel please return to Eventbrite to cancel your ticket.

A link to join the conversation and additional details will be sent to you by no later than the day before the conversation. Lewis will be hosting.


IAP2 Monthly Webinar – Large Scale P2 for Large Scale Projects

Tuesday, February 12th
11 am Pacific, 2 pm Eastern

Revamping an entire country’s criminal justice system … building an energy pipeline through 10 counties … huge scenarios with the potential to disrupt thousands – millions – of lives. In both cases, the proponents recognized the many ways people would be affected, and determined to engage the public at every stage, in order to achieve the best results all around.

In Canada, the Federal Department of Justice received over 10,000 contributions in a three-month period on the question, “How would you change our criminal justice system to better serve Canadians?” Two months after the public dialogue ended, the government announced a series of changes to the system that addressed some of the concerns raised in that dialogue.

In the USA, Williams Energy and Outreach Experts launched a huge public engagement campaign surrounding the building of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project. Since ten counties in Eastern Pennsylvania were in the path of the pipeline, Williams set out to make sure all interests were considered and addressed; dozens of route changes were made as a result of the consultations, and numerous grassroots organizations were part of the conversation.

IAP2 Members: Free
Non-IAP2 Members: $50


National Civic League AAC Promising Practices Webinar –  Leveraging Education to Achieve Equity and Improve Futures

Wednesday, February 13th
11 am Pacific, 2 pm Eastern

Join the National Civic League to learn more about how two All-America Cities are utilizing education programs to achieve equity and improve economic and community futures.

Dillon Delvo, Executive Director, of Little Manila Rising in Stockton, CA will discuss Us History, an ethnic studies-based after school program that was wildly popular and has been incorporated into the local school district’s curriculum. Mark Pumphrey, Director of Libraries, in El Paso, TX will talk about the public library’s reimagined approach to adult education and economic development.

Us History- Stockton, CA:
In Stockton, like many cities, the legacies, histories, contributions and cultures of people of color have frequently been forgotten and marginalized. To combat this problem, in 2016, the Little Manila Rising started the ethnic studies-based “Us History” after school program. The goal was: “Putting ‘us’ back into U.S. History.” The program met once a week through the 2016-2017 school year and focused on Mexican American, African American, and Filipino American histories and cultures.

The program included discussions of the Chicano Movement, Black Feminist Theory, redlining, issues facing the undocumented community, among other topics. In April 2017, the Stockton school district discussed adopting Ethnic Studies as an elective. “Us History” students attended the meeting and spoke about what Ethnic Studies meant to them and what it could mean for their community if it was part of their school’s curriculum.

Career and Adult Education Opportunities- El Paso, TX:
Through its public libraries, the City of El Paso is working to provide basic educational and entrepreneurial services to traditionally underserved communities. Technology tools are available for business use, including copy machines with faxing, printing, and scanning capabilities, sound equipment, microphones, headphones, telephones and a SmartScreen accessible during all library hours of operation. Alternative work spaces are made available in library auditoriums, atriums, conference rooms and other spaces. The goals of these programs and service enhancements are to support the economic development efforts of the City of El Paso, give emerging workforces places to engage their customers and to sharpen their business and entrepreneurial skills and improve the quality of life of residents by providing skills and training.


NCDD Confab Co-Hosted with National Civic League on the All-America City Awards

Confab bubble imageWednesday, February 13th
12 pm Pacific, 3 pm Eastern

This free call will offer space to learn more about the award, hear from past awardees, and ask questions. The award deadline is March 6th, so make sure you take advantage of this opportunity and register today to secure your spot on the call!

Since 1949, the National Civic League has recognized and celebrated the best in American civic innovation with the All-America City Award. The Award, bestowed yearly on 10 communities (more than 500 in all) recognizes the work of communities in using inclusive civic engagement to address critical issues and create stronger connections among residents, businesses and nonprofit and government leaders. The 2019 All-America City theme is “Creating Healthy Communities Through Inclusive Civic Engagement”. The 2019 All-America City Award is focused on celebrating examples of civic engagement practices that advance health equity in local communities.

Representatives from the award-winning city, Las Vegas, NV will join us on the call to speak about their experiences winning the All-America City Award in 2018. Las Vegas was recognized as an All-America City because they provide residents, stakeholders, staff and elected officials with a collective vision for a future of income equality and economic mobility, building programs and services that remove barriers and address challenges faced by their most vulnerable youth.


to what extent do you already know the story of your life?

If people were asked this question on a survey, I think the variations in responses would be significant and useful to know:

In general, people would give lower scores as they got older, but not always. The YouthBuild program (which we evaluated) serves disadvantaged adolescents and young adults. Before entering this 9-month program, participants predict that they will live to an average age of 40. Many believe that they already know the outlines of their lives. But upon completing the program, they think they will live to the age of 72: a 32-year increase (Hahn et al 2004). They now foresee decades of life that present unpredictable possibilities.

I agree with Kieran Setiya that “midlife” is best understood not as a span of years–say, ages 35-60–but as a subjective attitude to time that can occur at any age. Inspired by his book but departing a bit, I would measure midlife as a low score on the question shown above. By that definition, adolescents entering YouthBuild are already in midlife and even suffering from midlife crises. But for someone else, that state might never arise, or it might occur for the first time at age 90.

Is it good or bad to score high on this measure? That may depend on how well your life is going. If you expect to continue back-breaking labor for the rest of your life, still shackled to an uncaring partner, and suffering the regular deaths of loved-ones, you certainly would prefer not to be able to predict the rest of your life based on your story so far. But if you have retired in good health to a lovely seaside community, you may want nothing more than to run out the clock without seeing any unexpected changes to yourself or the people you care about. Priam had every reason to think that his life was a happy story until, as a very old man, he had to witness his hero son Hector being dragged dead around his besieged city.

I suspect we also vary in our subjective stances to change. For some people–almost regardless of their objective circumstances–predictability is comforting. But it is horrifying for others.

James Joyce published “The Dead” when he was 32. He had a long, dramatic, and hugely influential life ahead of him and surely couldn’t imagine that he’d become the Zurich-based author of Finnegans Wake by 1941. His protagonist, Gabriel, is also a “young man.” But I think “The Dead” is all about realizing that you know the whole course of your life. This is possible if you are a somewhat average bourgeois Dubliner, like Gabriel, or a budding international literary sensation, like James Joyce. Either way, to think you know your whole life-course is akin to being dead: you might as well just fast-forward to the end. That is the sense in which midlife is a depressing state rather than a comforting one.

I would predict that answers to this question would vary by age (but not in a lockstep correlation), by social circumstance (people with more opportunities will be less likely to think that they know their own futures) and by temperament.

Certain meditative experiences are intended to lower one’s score. For example, momento mori–meditating on death–is meant to remind you that you already know the important part of your story, how it ends. That is supposed to focus you on being pious. But Buddhism often reminds us that life is unpredictable, basically unstable, and that not being able to know the future should drive your attention to current experience. I vote for the latter although I am not very good at it.

Source: Hahn, A., Leavitt, T. D., Horvat, E. M., & Davis, J. E. (2004). Life after YouthBuild: 900 YouthBuild graduates react on their lives, dreams, and experiences. Somerville, MA: YouthBuild USA. See also Kieran Setiya on midlife: reviving philosophy as a way of life; nostalgia for now; rebirth without metaphysics.

Opportunity to Test Mismatch Spring 2019 Pilot, Grades 6-12

In case you missed it, NCDD member org Living Room Conversations and AllSides recently announced an opportunity to test out the Spring 2019 Pilot of Mismatch for grades 6-12! Mismatch is a platform that digitally connects classrooms with each other and facilitates structured conversation between students via video conferencing using Living Room Conversation topic guides. Last year, we featured Mismatch during one of our Tech Tuesday events and you can listen to the recording here! Read the details in the post below and find the original information on the LRC newsletter here.

Calling All Parents, Educators, and Students

We are excited to announce the Spring 2019 Pilot of Mismatch! And your (child’s) grade 6-12 classroom is invited to join!

AllSides for Schools is our joint project with the news site AllSides.comMismatch is a platform that pairs students from different schools around the U.S. and facilitates structured online video conversations between these students using Living Room Conversation topic Guides. You can learn more about Mismatch in the video you’ll find here.

Our goal is to make the Mismatch platform available for anyone interested in civil discussions with someone who thinks differently. We are looking forward to this and bet you are too!

How to join the Mismatch pilot? The AllSides for Schools team is currently looking for grade 6-12 educators in government, social studies, history, and related fields who would like to sign up their classrooms for our Spring 2019 Mismatch pilot. Joining the pilot entails these activities:

  • Completing a short pre-survey about your classroom
  • Providing feedback on our matching criteria, conversation guides, and web platform
  • Matching with another classroom and orchestrating realtime, F2F video conversations between students in your two classrooms (with our help)

92% of students surveyed after using Mismatch reported a positive shift in attitude after just one conversation, citing “great appreciation for the other perspective or other person.” 99% of students found the experience somewhat or extremely valuable.

Once the AllSides for Schools team receives your inquiry, you’ll be contacted for a 1:1 exploratory call to answer questions and describe the pilot program in more detail.  (Note: While every request to participate may not be able to be accommodated, due to matching constraints, the AllSides for Schools team will do its very best!)

Sign Up for FREE Here!

P.S. Do you know someone that would enjoy hearing from us? Please forward this email to friends and colleagues and encourage them to join our community.”

You can find the original version of this announcement on the Living Room Conversations newsletter at

apply for the 2019 Summer Institute of Civic Studies

The Summer Institute of Civic Studies is an intensive interdisciplinary seminar that brings together faculty, advanced graduate students, and practitioners from many countries and diverse fields of study. In 2019 it will take place from the evening of June 20 until June 28 at Tufts University in Medford, MA, and Boston.

The Summer Institute was founded and co-taught from 2009 to 2018 by Peter Levine, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Tisch College, and/or Karol So?tan, Associate Professor in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. The 11th annual Summer Institute will be taught by Peter Levine alongside several Tufts colleagues. Each year, it features guest seminars by distinguished scholars and practitioners from various institutions and engages participants in challenging discussions such as:

  • How can people work together to improve the world?
  • How can people reason together about what is right to do?
  • What practices and institutional structures promote these kinds of citizenship?
  • How should empirical evidence, ethics, and strategy relate?

A provisional draft of the 2019 syllabus is shown below. You can read more about the motivation for the Institute in the Civic Studies Framing Statement by Harry Boyte, University of Minnesota; Stephen Elkin, University of Maryland; Peter Levine, Tufts; Jane Mansbridge, Harvard; Elinor Ostrom, Indiana University; Karol So?tan, University of Maryland; and Rogers Smith, University of Pennsylvania.

The seminar follows a three-day public conference, Frontiers of Democracy, which takes place in downtown Boston on June 20-22. Participants in the Summer Institute are expected to participate in the conference (free of charge) and then the Institute on June 23-28. This year, the Summer Institute also follows the American Political Science Association Institute for Civically Engaged Research (ICER), which will take place on June 17-22, with ICER participants also taking part in the Frontiers conference.

Practicalities and How to Apply

Daily sessions take place on the Tufts campus in Medford, Massachusetts. Tuition for the Institute is free, but participants are responsible for their own housing and transportation. One option is a Tufts University dormitory room, which can be rented for $69/night (single room) or $85/night (double room). Credit is not automatically offered, but special arrangements for graduate credit may be possible.

The application consists of a resume, a cover letter about your interests, and an electronic copy of your graduate transcript (if applicable). The application deadline is March 31, 2019. You can sign up here to receive occasional emails about the Summer Institute, including a notification when we begin accepting applications.

For more information contact Peter Levine, Tisch College’s Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, at

European Institute

The fifth annual European Institute of Civic Studies will take place in Herrsching, near Munich, Germany, from July 14th to July 27th 2019. It is open to graduate students and scholars in any discipline who are citizens of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Poland, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. To apply, send a letter of interest, a curriculum vitae, and an academic transcript (if applicable) to Prof. Tetyana Kloubert at by March 31, 2019, for best consideration.


2019 Summer Institute Syllabus

Subject to change

June 20 (evening) to June 22 (lunchtime): Frontiers of Democracy Conference

June 23 (afternoon): Informal gathering to get to know each other; some sharing of our backgrounds and goals

June 24

I. Inspirations for civic work

9 a.m.-Noon: A “feeling of personal responsibility for the world”

II. Problems of Collective Action: Forming and Maintaining Functional Groups at Various Scales

1:00-2:00 p.m.: A simulated Tragedy of the Commons; reflections on game theory as a method of modeling interactions

2:00-5:00 p.m.: The work of Elinor Ostrom and colleagues

June 25

9:00 a.m.-Noon:  The role of social capital

1:00-3:00 p.m.: Collective action problems at scale

  • James Madison, The Federalist #10
  • Jane Mansbridge, Beyond Adversary Democracy, pp. 3-35, pp. 163-82, 290-8
  • Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty, Chapters 1, 4 and Postscript, pp. 11-2154-70397-411.
  • James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed,Introduction (pp. 1-8), Chapter 3 “Authoritarian High Modernism”

3:30-5:00 p.m.: Public Work

  • Harry C. Boyte, Reinventing Citizenship as Public Work: Citizen-Centered Democracy and the Empowerment Gap

June 26

III. Problems of Discourse: Discussing and Reasoning about Contested Value Issues

9:00-10:00 a.m.: Deliberation

  • The Harvard Pluralism Project’s case entitled A Call to Prayer. What should the people of Hamtramck, MI do?

10:00 a.m.-Noon, 1:00-2:00 p.m.: The Frankfurt School, Habermas, deliberative democracy

  • Lasse Thomassen, Habermas: A guide for the perplexed. A&C Black, 2010, pp. 63-96, 111-130.
  • Jürgen Habermas, “The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article,” New German Critique, 3 (1974), pp. 49-55
  • Jürgen Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action (selection) 

2:00-5:00 p.m.: Critiques

  • Danielle E. Allen, Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship Since Brown, v. Board of Education, pp. TBA
  • Jean L. Cohen, “American Civil Society Talk,” in Robert K. Fullinwider, ed., Civil Society, Democracy, and Civic Renewal, pp. 55-85
  • Nina Eliasoph, Avoiding Politics, pp. 1-22
  • Lynn Sanders, “Against Deliberation”

June 27

IV. Problems of Exclusion

9:00-11:00 a.m.: Boundaries, good and bad

  • The Book of Nehemiah
  • John Gaventa, Power and Powerlessness: Quiescence and Rebellion in an Appalachian Valley, pp. 3-32
  • Dec 4: Audre Lorde, “ The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” and Steve Biko, “Black Consciousness and the Quest for True Humanity”

11:00 a.m.-Noon and 1:00-3:00 p.m.: Gandhi

2:00-4-00 p.m.: Martin Luther King

June 28

V. Solutions?

9:00-11:00 a.m.: Community organizing

  • Mark R. Warren, Dry Bones Rattling: Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy, pp. 4-70
  • Saul Alinsky, Reveille for Radicals, 1946 (1969 edition), pp. 76-81; 85-88; 92-100, 132-5, 155-158.
  • Myles Horton and Paulo Freire, We Make the Road by Walking, pp. 115-138

Noon-2:00 p.m.: Social movements and nonviolent campaigns

  • Charles Tilly, Social Movements, 1768-2004
  • Habermas, “New Social Movements,” Telos, September 21, vol. 1981, no. 49 (1981)
  • Marshall Ganz, “Why David Sometimes Wins: Strategic Capacity in Social Movements,” in Jeff Goodwin and James M. Jasper, Rethinking Social Movements: Structure, Meaning, and Emotion (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004) pp.177-98.
  • Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, chapters 1 and 2 

2:00-3:00 p.m. Closing reflections

Announcing Co-Hosted Confab Call with Nat’l Civic League!

We are thrilled to announce that NCDD has teamed up with the National Civic League to offer the next exciting Confab call happening in February! Join us, February 13th at 3-4pm Eastern/12-1pm Pacific, as we discuss the upcoming All-America City Award and share tips for winning this prestigious award. This free call will offer space to learn more about the award, hear from past awardees, and ask questions. The award deadline is March 6th, so make sure you take advantage of this opportunity and register today to secure your spot on the call!

Since 1949, the National Civic League has recognized and celebrated the best in American civic innovation with the All-America City Award. The Award, bestowed yearly on 10 communities (more than 500 in all) recognizes the work of communities in using inclusive civic engagement to address critical issues and create stronger connections among residents, businesses and nonprofit and government leaders. The 2019 All-America City theme is “Creating Healthy Communities Through Inclusive Civic Engagement”. The 2019 All-America City Award is focused on celebrating examples of civic engagement practices that advance health equity in local communities.

Representatives from the award-winning cities, Las Vegas, NV and Decatur, GA will join us on the call to speak about their experiences winning the All-America City Award in 2018. Las Vegas was recognized as an All-America City because they provide residents, stakeholders, staff and elected officials with a collective vision for a future of income equality and economic mobility, building programs and services that remove barriers and address challenges faced by their most vulnerable youth. Decatur, GA was recognized as a 2018 All-America City for its commitment to civic engagement. Through their projects, Decatur showed that it is actively seeking to build an equitable and inclusive experience for its residents and visitors, focusing on racially-just community policing and building diverse and affordable housing.

Don’t miss out – register for our call today!

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!

an agenda for the dignity of work

Sen. Sherrod Brown’s theme of the “dignity of work” is powerful and important, for these four reasons:

1. A basic cause of unacceptable inequality is the worsening position of workers versus the owners of capital. That shows up in statistics on the share of income …

… and also in less tangible ways, such as a growing cultural and spatial distance between workers and investors and the rising deference or obsequiousness to the rich

2. Work, in the broadest sense—making things of value—is one basis of a good life for human beings. It is spoiled when work is alienated (split between decision-makers who don’t actually do anything and laborers who make no decisions) or replaced entirely by automation and AI. The availability of good work is probably shrinking and is certainly threatened by the next wave of automation.

3. The dignity of work can be a unifying theme. Yes, who has dignified work depends on gender, race, class, and age, so addressing this issue requires attention to inequality and difference. But people in very different social positions share a sense that dignified work is threatened.

4. Workers who are organized (in unions or the functional equivalents of unions) gain countervailing political power along with dignity. I’m of the school that it doesn’t matter much which policies Democratic candidates endorse, because their policy options are highly constrained once they’re in office. It matters how power is distributed. Strengthening workers’ organizations addresses the third level of power (“Who decides policies?”) rather than the first or second levels of power (What do particular people get? and “What policies are in place?”).

[For related arguments, see Harry C. Boyte, “The Shutdown Taught Us About the Dignity of Work: An Unanticipated Civics Lesson, Courtesy of President Trump” (The Nation, Jan 29) and Albert Dzur, “Teaching Citizenship” (The Boston Review, Jan. 30).]

Sen. Brown has a plan entitled “Working Too Hard for Too Little: A Plan for Restoring the Value of Work in America.” I think it’s an important contribution, but it’s mostly about raising pay per hour and improving the bargaining position of unions. We could add to his agenda, recognizing that some people just aren’t going to be unionized, that AI threatens employment for all, and that work faces crises of quality as well as pay and hours.

I can only offer vague thoughts because I am insufficiently informed, but I would consider:

  1. Federal support for associations of workers who would have a very hard time unionizing. Domestic workers are the prime case, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance is the leading example. When organized, domestic workers can advocate for favorable government policies, but they can also provide education, training, insurance, and other services for their members and speak to a range of audiences. In practice, they use their voice to advocate for their patients and clients as well as for themselves, and they demonstrate a concern for the quality of work as well as pay. I am not sure what federal policies would help them most, but possibly they should be eligible for grants for their service functions to subsidize their organizing efforts.
  2. A new look at accountability policies in a wide range of fields, from teaching and policing to medicine, to ensure that the drive to measure inputs and outcomes doesn’t ruin the quality of professional work. Often these accountability measures are driven by federal policy.
  3. A new look at the federal civil service, with an eye to making the jobs that are directly controlled by the national government as rewarding and substantive as possible.
  4. Funding for R&D that uses new technology to enhance and expand work (not to replace work).
  5. Federal programs modeled on the EPA’s now-defunct Community Action for a Renewed Environment CARE) that support a range of stakeholders who work on common problems. Typically, some of the stakeholders are paid to work full-time on these problems; others use some of their paid time to help out; and others are volunteers. For instance, in an environmental project, some participants may be government regulators, some may be local business people, and some may be unpaid activists. It’s important to see and name them all as working.