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Newswire – September 17, 2019

MIRACLE AT PHILADELPHIA. September 17, 1787 has a strong argument for being the actual date that what we know as the United States came into being. That was the day that “We The People” formed a more perfect union by replacing the dysfunctional Articles of Confederation with our Constitution.

The famous painting above by  Howard Chandler Christy may show the greatest assemblage of brain power and character ever assembled in one room. If you’re like most of us it has been some time since you read the actual document. No matter what your politics, do yourself a favor and give it a look. It’s guided the greatest nation on earth through good times and bad for 232 years. If you’re interested in taking a deeper dive into the actual constitutional convention, highly recommended is the National Book Award Winner Miracle at Philadelphia.


WHY AMERICA WAS ASKED IN PHILADELPHIA. Happily the delegates came up with answers.  At CER we’re helping students ask the same question and have developed an extraordinary effort to ask -  and answer - “Why America?” on topics ranging from Women’s Suffrage to the origins of Elections. You can learn more here and if you’re interested in replicating in your community, just ask!  Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough said “You cannot love what you do not know.”  That’s why we do “Why America?”


THE CASE FOR CIVICS.  Surveys and assessments abound showing the sad truth about our collective understanding of civics, and the history and practices that have built this still new nation. Only two in five Americans even know our three branches of government! Next time you are unhappy with election results, remember that these people are voting.  They can’t love what they don’t know. You should take a look at the test given to applicants for U.S. citizenship. Read, share and get engaged to rebuild an informed and engaged citizenry.


ANOTHER CIVICS LESSON - NO RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION.  The 800 lb gorilla of parental rights cases will be before  the US Supreme Court next month in a challenge to so-called “Blaine Amendments” to state constitutions.  Blaine Amendments are 19th century anti-Catholic state laws forbidding parents from using the funds allocated for their education to access any religiously affiliated education. Thirty-seven states have them.  The case  centers around the constitutionality of Montana’s Blaine Amendment. A favorable, broad ruling in Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue could open educational opportunities to millions of kids. CER is teaming up with organizations around the country to make our case on that. More to come.

“Blaine’s Teas(e)” 20 March 1880, by Thomas Nast for Harper’s Weekly. Source: UDel-Walfred.


OFFENDED BY THE CARTOON? That’s James Blaine, who before he went after Catholics, worked to exclude the Chinese, which the media was all over. That’s whose amendment will be up in front of the US Supreme Court this session!


COLLEGE LESSONS ON “WHY AMERICA?” - FOR FREE! - Michigan’s Hillsdale College offers free online courses, among which one of the best is a series on the Constitution and the foundations of the American Republic.  Courses offered are “Introduction to the Constitution”, “Constitution 101”, “Constitution 201”, “The Presidency and the Constitution”, and “The Federalist Papers.” Never too early to start or continue your learning!


BEST TYPE OF CIVICS LESSON - CITIZENS IN ACTION. The very appropriately named  Success Academy in Queens, New York has a waiting list of students and was promised space to expand by the  city Department of Education two years ago, was told last year that it would get space this year, and now is being stonewalled.  At least five public school buildings across Queens have ample room for the new school, with 450 to 725 empty seats each. But Mayor De Blasio’s educrats regularly invent excuses, and now have literally stopped returning calls from Success officials. Saying “enough is enough”, Success Academy parents, staff and students are holding a rally at Roy Wilkins Park in St. Albans, Queens, on Sept. 26.  Help them out if you can. For more information call the Academy at  347-602-4335.


MORE CITIZEN ACTION - OPEN THE DOORS AND LET THE KIDS IN! Last week’s Reality Check podcast focused on the absurd situation where D.C. public schools have empty buildings while thousands of kids are on a waiting list to get into charters. Citizen activists at End The List are holding an "Open Doors - Unlock Opportunity" event on November 14th at the Atrium Hall of the Ronald Reagan Building in downtown DC.  Help strike a blow for sanity - and civics - by attending the rally!


MICHAEL MOE - CIVICS IN ACTION. This week’s guest on Reality Check with Jeanne Allen is a walking, talking example of civic involvement helping all sectors - including education. GSV Founder Michael Moe discusses the future of learning; new advances  rapidly changing the workplace and the classroom alike, “How we get people the skills, the knowledge, the connectivity” to thrive in the 21st century,” and breakthrough alternative ways that people are learning and sharing ideas today. Listen for more on why both AI and China should be on the U.S. ed and tech world radar screens (and you can bet they make sure their kids know their civics!)


As always, please drop us a line, with any input and suggestions.  

Founded in 1993, the Center for Education Reform aims to expand educational opportunities that lead to improved economic outcomes for all Americans — particularly our youth — ensuring that conditions are ripe for innovation, freedom and flexibility throughout U.S. education.