Civic Education Outreach

Helping high school teachers provide the best civic education for their students

Civic Education Outreach

Launched early 2016 in Chicago with a lead gift from The Harvey L. Miller Family Foundation, HLM Founding Civics is a three-year project to provide an array of educational programs and resources for Chicagoland teachers. The programs help teachers integrate documents and ideas of the Founding into their civics curriculum so that students can connect them to current political issues and learn how to think critically about the principles that will guide their participation in civic life.

Working with institutions—including Lake Forest College, University of Chicago, Roosevelt University and the Newberry Library in Chicago along with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia—the Initiative offers professional development and graduate courses along with high-quality course materials for American history, government and civics teachers.

Taught by JMC faculty partners, courses supported by Founding Civics enrich teacher education in our nation’s founding documents and ideas and help teachers draw connections to contemporary debates about government institutions and controversial political issues to teach to their students.

As part of the HLM Founding Civics Initiative, Lake Forest College is offering a new series of graduate courses for high school teachers through their Master of Liberal Studies Program.

  • Teachers may register for one or both courses, depending on availability
  • Meets Saturdays from 10am-12pm at Lake Forest College
  • 4 hours of graduate credit or 60 PD hours
  • Free tuition for working high school teachers
  • 7 face-to-face meetings, the remainder of the course online
  • Teachers may take as a standalone course or matriculate into the MLS program
  • Ideal for American history, government, or civics teachers given the new Illinois civics requirement

Fall 2017 Course: The American Founding: Principles, Practices, Controversies

Course description: American politicians and legal scholars often support their opinions by referring to the Founding Era of the United States. But what exactly occurred during those important years at the end of the 18th century? What were the major debates about the ratification of the Constitution and how were they resolved? Are these founding principles and institutions still worthy of support as they stand? Do they need to be revised to meet changed circumstances and, if so, to what degree?

In this course, we will carefully interrogate the history and political philosophy of the Founding Era by examining a wide selection of key texts. In addition, we will explore how different generations of Americans have (re)-interpreted the meaning of these texts. Finally, we will consider how and why debates surrounding the meaning of the Founding era are still very much present in virtually all of the major political controversies of our day.

Begins August 2017

Spring 2018 Course: Liberty

Course Description: Throughout the history of western ideas, the concept of liberty is a relatively modern one; we can trace its development from the English Enlightenment to the 21st century. We will explore the idea of liberty as a political, economic, cultural and social standard, including markets, individual rights, conflicts between equality and freedom, international relations, psychological explorations of freedom, conflicts between states, and individual liberties.

Throughout the course, we will apply theoretical constructs to real problems, looking at public policy and Supreme Court law.  How can liberty be applied to America’s discussions of personal rights, including First Amendment liberties, sexuality, and abortion? Does freedom require the government to avoid infringing on individual autonomy, or must the government actively protect an individual’s autonomy? If so, how is the balance between government interference and individual autonomy struck?  Does economic freedom require political freedom? Seven class meetings, with the rest of the course work carried out online.

Begins January 2018

Click here for more information.

Click here for registration form.

For more information, call 847-735-5083 or email Carol Gayle, Associate Director of the MLS program, (

Separation of Powers and American Democracy

The ADEF is a program of the American Democracy Forum in partnership with the UW-Madison School of Education. It offers 7th-12th grade teachers the opportunity to gather in person and online to discuss primary text readings, hear from scholarly experts, and plan new curriculum on key themes in American political thought, American government, and American history.

ADEF is offered at no cost to teachers, including the cost of tuition for two graduate credits, reimbursement for substitute teacher coverage, lodging, transportation, and meals.

Participants in the 2017-2018 American Democracy Educators’ Forum will:

  • discuss principles and practice of American democracy with leading scholars and faculty from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and beyond
  • participate in four face-to-face meetings  (August 3-4, December 8, 2017, and April 27, 2018) and various online content throughout the school year
  • become part of a professional learning community that will inform and enhance current educational practices
  • earn two graduate credits from UW-Madison
  • incorporate and highlight the theme of “Separation of Powers and American Democracy” into curriculum

In 2017-2018 the theme will be the separation of powers and American democracy.

From the ADEF: The relationship between the three branches of government and the implications of this relationship for freedom and democracy have been touchpoints for controversy throughout the history of the United States.  What is the proper scope of executive authority?  Has the executive branch grown more powerful because Presidents have taken power from Congress or because Congress has willingly given up power?  Did the authors of the Constitution envision the role taken on by the courts over the last 200 years?  And just where did their ideas about separation of powers and checks and balances come from?

We’ll explore these questions and more.  We’ll draw on the resources provided by the National Constitution Center’s online Interactive Constitution, read and discuss key texts from the history of political thought that informed the creation and interpretation of the Constitution, hear from experts from U.W., Madison, and work together to develop new curriculum.

Click here for more information.

Newberry Library and University of Chicago Summer Civics Program

Working in partnership with the Newberry Library and the Montesquieu Forum at Roosevelt, JMC is conducting a series of professional development seminars for high school teachers.

Each seminar is free for high school teachers selected to participate, who will receive:

  • 25 hours of professional development credit
  • a stipend to defray costs
  • breakfast and lunch each day, plus a group dinner on the Tuesday evening
  • a bound volume of primary source readings, sent in advance of the seminar


Week 1 | What the Founders Read: The Philosophical Influences on the American Founding
July 10-14, 2017, at the University of Chicago Graham School

In this 5-day sequence, teachers will engage in guided close readings and detailed discussions of the major philosophical texts that shaped the political worldview of the founding generation. Texts will include Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Politics, John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws, and Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract. An immersive grappling with the big ideas that the founders wrestled with provides an essential foundation to understanding the government they created.

Click here for more information about week 1.

Week 2 | The Principles of America’s Founding
July 17-21, 2017, at the Newberry Library

In this 5-day sequence, high school teachers will pursue an exciting inquiry into the Founders’ political philosophy. Lectures, discussions, and workshops will bring to life the fundamental arguments of the Founding, which continue to animate our political life. Readings will include core AP Government texts such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers. We will also examine closely the thought of Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, and the musically celebrated Alexander Hamilton. Participation promises invaluable preparation for civics, American history, and government classes.

Esteemed college faculty from around the nation, led by the seminar organizer Svetozar Minkov of Roosevelt University, will guide Chicagoland teachers in analyzing and interpreting the crucial documents of the Founding era. Exploration of rare materials from the Newberry collection and a session held at the Art Institute of Chicago will round out the week.

Note: Participation in this week’s program can also count toward a graduate history course at Roosevelt University, History and Philosophy of the American Founding (3 credits). Additional hours would be completed over several weekends in the Fall of 2017; scholarships are available for qualified applicants. For information, write to Professor Minkov at

Click here for more information about week 2.

Week 3 | The Unwritten Constitution: The Evolution of the Congress and Presidency
July 24-28, 2017, at the University of Chicago’s Graham School

In this 5-day sequence, teachers will study the history and evolution of the American Government. The Founders set into place the basic structures of government, and subsequent generations of political leaders shaped its future forms. Week 3 will include a special session on pedagogy by a scholar from the National Archives. Topics to be covered include the crisis of the Civil War, the Progressive Era, the New Deal and Great Society, and the War Powers. Readings will include de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Woodrow Wilson’s Congressional Government, and Herbert Croly’s The Promise of American Life, as well as documents by other presidents and congressional leaders.

Click here for more information about week 3.

Separate applications are required for the Chicago program (weeks 1 & 3) and the Newberry program (week 2). Candidates may apply to as many as they wish, although spaces is limited. The application deadline for both programs is May 15, 2017.

Click here to apply to the Chicago program (weeks 1 & 3).

Click here to apply to  Newberry Library program (week 2).

In 2010, JMC sponsored the first of three High School Teachers’ Academies in partnership with the Montesquieu Forum, our partner program at Roosevelt University. Each one-week program of seminars lectures and workshops brought together 20 Chicagoland teachers to deepen their knowledge of texts and documents central to the formation of the U.S. and its institutions. The programs were well-received and set the stage for a full-scale effort at the high-school level.