Long after the American Revolution, the ratification of the Constitution and his two terms as president, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “…if a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what was never was and never will be.” Jefferson’s generation, having fought so hard for liberty, understood that the way to keep it was not merely to vest power in the hands of “We the People” but to also ensure that the people were educated enough to wield that power.
I am currently serving on the board of an organization that also understands the importance of an informed citizenry. It is called the New Hampshire Institute for Civics Education. It was founded in 2015 and its mission is to support and advocate for civics education.
I first became aware of this organization as a teacher seeking professional development opportunities. The programs I attended were always excellent and it gave me opportunities to see prominent speakers such as Justice David Souter, or be part of an interesting exploration of societal and legal issues raised in the movie “To Kill a Mockingbird”.
Today the Institute is supporting an amazing variety of programs including: Civics 603 which supports 6th- to 12th-grade civics curriculum with emphasis on the Constitution, Bill of Rights and civil discourse, New Hampshire Kid Governor which has 5th graders campaign for the coveted job of “Kid Governor” and the Mikva Challenge which helps middle school students develop leadership and oratory skills while exploring topics in civics. This is only a small sample and the full slate of programs can be accessed at www.nhcivics.org (there is a donate tab that we’d love you to consider using there as well).
When Alexis de Tocqueville toured the United States in the 1830s he described an America that was experiencing a great “tumult” or excitement about engaging in political discourse. Almost 200 years later at least some of that passion seems to have been replaced by apathy, misunderstanding and anger. I believe the way to a better conversation and to protecting our liberty, is through civics education. Whether you are a teacher, a student or a citizen of this great state, please consider supporting and engaging with the programs of the New Hampshire Institute for Civics Education.
Dan Marcus, JD
Civics teacher, John Stark High School
Trustee, NH Institute for Civics Education