We the People

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Politics and civil commentary with community columnist John Eyster.

Citizens of a republic must be educated!

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John Eyster
Saturday, June 29, 2013

Citizens of a republic must be educated!

Do YOU agree?

If you are wondering why I did did NOT post on my WE THE PEOPLE blog this week, the reason is that I have been immersed in my 17th annual seminar/workshop for AP US Government & Politics teachers which is part of the Advanced Placement Summer Institute which is a program of the School of Education, UW-Madison. Let me share from the seminar and invite you to comment about including healthy, relevant DEMOCRACY/CIVICS education for our children/youth CITIZENS.

We’ve had 21 high school teachers in our seminar who have been or will be (starting this fall) teaching AP US Government & politics in high schools throughout WI as well as IL, IA, MO.

I am soaring with renewed AUDACITY of HOPE for the future of our republic as these highly motivated and conscientious teachers educate our high school students to be informed, involved and committed citizens of our republic – USA!

THOMAS JEFFERSON is well known for his incisive articulation in the Declaration of Independence and other communications written and spoken. I want to highlight his assertion, "Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight." I am wholeheartedly in agreement with Jefferson’s assertion! Are YOU?

WHY do WE THE PEOPLE of WI not take more seriously the education of the children & youth who are natural born citizens of our republics (plural) – US and the states?

WHY do WE THE PEOPLE of the USA not take more seriously the education of our children & youth who are natural born citizens of our republics (plural the USA and the states)?

Are you aware that ALL FUNDING for democracy/civics education by the US Federal Government has now been CUT?! Are you aware that there has been a tsunami-like wave of SUPPORT ($$$) to science and math with a dramatic reduction of SUPPORT ($) to the social sciences and humanities, including democracy/civics education throughout the USA? IF we do NOT educate our children & youth to live in a republic, we will NOT have a healthy republic in the future! The present trajectory is that we will live in a TECHNOCRACY and NOT a REPUBLIC (representative government)! What do YOU think?

I wish I could return home to regular routine reassured as to the future of our republic as representative government because of effective democracy/civics education in high schools throughout the US, but I am more aware of the cuts in social studies education, including democracy/civics education. GO BACK and re-read THOMAS JEFFERSON’s statement! IF WE THE PEOPLE are NOT educated so that we are able to give OVERSIGHT of our governments (federal, state, local), we will lose our republic. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”!

Climbing BASCOM HILL daily this week, I have been more directly aware of our UW-Madison and our WI Capitol. I have been thrilled daily by the vision seen when standing on BASCOM HILL (UW-Madison) looking up State Street to our WI State Capitol. I reflected on Robert M. “Fighting Bob” LaFollette’s vision of the WISCONSIN IDEA which included the concept of the state as “laboratory for democracy.”

At that time, this was meant to support legislation that served as a model for other states and the federal government to increase the democratic – progressive principles of states and nation. LaFollette’s WISCONSIN IDEA was the political philosophy that saw the public university as a servant of the state, including: “serving in office, offering advice about public policy, providing information and exercising technical skill, and to the citizens in the forms of doing research directed at solving problems that are important to the state and conducting outreach activities.”

For more discussion of the “Wisconsin Idea,” I urge you to read, “The Wisconsin Idea: The University’s Service to the State – reprinted from the 1995-96 Wisconsin Bluebook. Valuable information and perspective, including the article, “The Wisconsin Idea for the 21st Century.” You can use this link for access.

I know we have 21 high school teachers who will be teaching AP US Government & Politics this fall so I KNOW there are qualified teachers. My long-time co-instructor – fiend, Dr. David Canon is one of the award winning and highly regarded political science professors at UW-Madison. He provided the seminar teachers with a very informative and relevant lecture/discussion on topics/issues required in the AP US Government & Politics curriculum. The curriculum lecture/discussion sessions are designed to help these AP teachers better prepare their students to be CITIZENS of our republics and gain success on the National AP US Government & Politics Exam. David is the co-author of a very popular and effective textbook for AP US Government & Politics and college courses. If you want to take a look at the textbook, you can use this link: American Politics Today – already 3rd edition with 2013 copyright includes 2012 elections.

My responsibility is the afternoon sessions which focus on classroom resources to help these teachers provide their students with meaningful, relevant and effective class sessions to education young citizens to be educated/informed, involvement/active and committed citizens of our REPUBLICS and to achieve on the NATIONAL AP exam. This includes starting on Monday afternoon with the review of the current (2012) National AP exam 4 required FREE RESPONSE QUESTIONS (FRQs) on the AP US Government & Politics exam.

I was a Reader and then a Table Leader (supervisor) for the National Exam starting with the first national exam (1987) through the years until I retired from the Reading in 2005. 18 satisfying Readings with the benefits of the networking with high school AP teachers and Political Science professors from throughout the USA!

Since I have NOT been a Reader, we NOW enlist alumni of our seminar who are NOW Readers to come teach the current National Exam FRQ’s so that our teachers have the CURRENT rubrics for the scoring with training by a teacher who has just completed the Reading and is able to help these teachers realistically score the FRQs on the National AP Exam. This is valuable professional development learning so that these AP teachers are able to prepare their students to achieve on the National AP Exam.

WHY is this important? I agree with THOMAS JEFFERSON as he asserted the KEY REQUIREMENT of DEMOCRACY/CIVICS EDUCATION for a healthy/effective DEMOCRACY. There are two (2) key quotes which I would cite:

“An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight. It is therefore imperative that the nation see to it that a suitable education be provided for all its citizens.”

"I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

Numerous highlights from last week let me highlight a few:

--Dr. David Canon’s academic lectures featuring current research and filled with current event illustrations to help every instructor plug-in the concepts/terms/situation for her/his students. Lively discussion throughout the lectures each morning last week.

--Learning the scoring RUBRICS of the 4 required FREE RESPONSE QUESTONS (FRQs) on the 2013 National AP Exam for AP US Government & Politics. Tom Kuhn, teacher from Mundelein HS (IL), Veteran AP Exam Reader and alumnus of our UW-Madison Institute came to “train” the teachers as to how the FRQs were scored this year. VERY practical & relevant information w/process for an AP teacher!

--Reviewing the required syllabus content for an authorized AP US Government & Politics course through the syllabus audit process was led by MATT ZIEBART & PETE MEINBERG, AP US Government & Politics teaching team at Hartford Union High School (WI) and an alumni of our seminar for teachers. They shared valuable ideas for classroom strategies used by them.

--Wednesday morning after we listened to the reports on the US Supreme Court’s decisions on DOMA and CA’s Proposition 8, we moved into a discussion to demonstrate a healthy strategy to integrate current event into the AP US Government & Politics syllabus. We reviewed each of the Court’s decisions of this week with analysis, interpretation and discussion.

--KEY SESSIONS were focused on collegial/peer sharing of resources used by classroom teachers with each teacher invited to share one or more of her/his favorite resources. This dynamic led to helpful clarifications along with other teachers adding various special adjustments/details to enrich the resource being shared. Exciting PROFESSIONAL sharing which, I believe, is optimal for PROFESSIONAL QUALITY!

Advanced Placement has become a significant academic enrichment of the high school career which allows students to each COLLEGE CREDITS if they achieve (score of 3, 4 or 5) on a National AP Exam.

Students/parents interested in learning more about AP, I urge you to talk with your local HS counselor. Another resource would be AP CENTRAL online with the STUDENT section and the PARENT section.

IF your local high school does not offer many courses with AP benefits, I suggest you learn more about the Wisconsin Virtual School sponsored by CESA #9 and DPI. WVS offers online AP courses through local school districts for the benefit of students who otherwise would not have access. Local class schedule may be a reason to take an AP course online through WVS. You can use the link above to check it out.

Our highest PRIORITY in our AP US Government & Politics courses – we ALL agreed – is to educate our CITIZEN students to be informed – involved – committed citizens! Secondarily, we do hope to prepare them to achieve well on the National AP Exam IF they choose to take it. There is a fee to take the National AP Exam, so it is NOT required of a student taking an AP course.

What do YOU think about educating our CITIZEN students with high school courses?

Here we go…

Mr. E.

Last updated: 8:25 am Monday, July 29, 2013

John W. Eyster lives in the Edgerton area. He is an adjunct professor assigned with the online/distance education faculty of Viterbo University, LaCrosse. He continues his personal mission supporting democracy/civics education in Wisconsin K-12 schools through Project Citizen, We the People, Discovering Democracy (Milton HS). John is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff or management.

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