The Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor Collaborate on the Future of Civic Education
On November 3 and 4, the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison’s Montpelier hosted a strategic planning summit with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, her iCivics organization, university presidents, and thought leaders from across the nation. Using a 25-year horizon leading up to the 250th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 2037, the participants discussed how technology can be used to reach both young and adult learners with the goal of inspiring them to be active, engaged citizens.
Justice O’Connor reminded the group that civic knowledge is not something you are born with. It must be taught to each generation. Quoting James Madison, she remarked that “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will for ever govern ignorance: and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
Through iCivics.org, an organization Justice O’Connor founded in 2009 to reverse Americans’ declining civic knowledge and participation, she has been a committed leader and advocate dedicated to teaching the next generation to understand and respect our system of governance.
“At Montpelier, we believe that in order to engage the public with the core ideals of democracy, we must provide people with access to resources that drive awareness, foster understanding, and give historic context," said Kat Imhoff, CEO of The Montpelier Foundation. “Through innovative partnerships, programs and proactive outreach, we can work together to develop an aggressive strategy that leverages the power and potential of 21st-century technology in order to bring these critical resources into our homes, libraries, classrooms, and communities.”
Montpelier, working in collaboration with non-profit, for-profit, and government partners, plans to take a prominent role in refining the summit’s vision in the years to come. Montpelier’s Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution has demonstrated its handle on web-based technology with its online courses for adult professionals. The Constitutional Foundations and Constitutional Amendment: the Bill of Rights online courses are free and open to the public. The Center has worked with over 18,000 people from all 50 states and more than 60 countries in the last decade to explore James Madison’s role as prominent founder and the United States Constitution. To learn more, visit montpelier.org/center.