Monday, February 12, 2018

Symposium: Civic Education in a Time of Upheaval

Sandy Levinson

That is the title of a symposium co-organized by myself and Meira Levinson, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, that will take place at the University of Texas Law School this coming Friday and Saturday.  Friday, February 16  It will begin on Friday morning with a "summit conference" of a number of editors of leading constitutional law casebooks,  The afternoon will begin a series of panels primarily organized by Meira that focuses more explicitly on the problems presented by trying to create given classroom narratives in significantly divided societies. There is no charge for attending and lunch will be served on Friday and Saturday to those in attendance.  Public school teachers can get continuing education credit (though the Texas Bar Association.)  All of the programs will be videoed and available, in relatively short order, online.  The focus of the gathering is not the presentation of traditional academic papers, but, rather, intense discussion among a variety of extremely accomplished people who have written about and dealt with the issues presented.  

You might also note that Saturday morning will include a session specifically on the book coathored by Cynthia and Sanford Levinson, Fault Lines in the Constitution.  The entire schedule is as follows:

8:30 – 9:00 Welcome by Dean Farnsworth and Setting the Stage by Sanford Levinson
9:00 – 12:15 On "Introducing" Constitutional Law--and the Casebooks We Use to Do That. A host of editors of leading casebooks on the US Constitution will address two central questions: 1. What aspects of the Constitution should American undergraduates and/or law students be “introduced” to in 2018, given the high unlikelihood that even the law students will actually "practice" constitutional law in any capacity other than citizens? 2. What do you see as the principal point(s) of your own casebook relative to whatever answer you gave to the first question?
Each person will make a short presentation, followed by presumably intense conversation including participation by the audience. There will be a brief break around 10:30
Panelists: Josh Blackman, Erwin Chemerinsky, Richard Fallon, Mark Graber, Gary Jacobsohn, Sanford Levinson,  Mark Tushnet  Present by video:  Sam Bray, Noah Feldman
Chair: Richard Albert
Location: Sheffield-Massey Room, with overflow in TNH 2.138

1:45-2:00 Introduction to the general topic of civic education (and the remaining panels): Meira Levinson

2:00 – 3:30 Historical Perspectives. As educators and citizens try to make sense of contemporary political and ideological divisions in the United States, it can be useful to see how educators and policy makers addressed profound division and civic upheaval in the past. This panel brings together historians of education to provide perspectives and insights into prior approaches to civic education in times of upheaval.
Panelists: Jarvis Givens, Julie Reuben, Jonathan Zimmerman
Chair: Lorraine Pangle
Location: Sheffield-Massey Room, with overflow in Francis Auditorium

3:50 – 5:35 Civic Education in Divided Societies. Partisanship in the United States is at higher levels than we’ve seen in decades, and increasingly tracks other divides such as education level, income, and place of residence. Not only are we more extreme in our beliefs, therefore, but we are also more likely to be disconnected from those who have different perspectives. We are not the only country to face profound civic division, however; nor is this the first time that the United States finds itself ideologically driven. This panel brings together scholars and educators who work around the globe in deeply divided countries.
Panelists: Michelle Bellino, Thea Abu El-Haj, Michael Karayanni, Adam Strom
Chair: Michael Stoff
Location: Sheffield-Massey Room, with overflow in Francis Auditorium

Saturday, February 17
9:00 – 10:30 Teaching Civic Contestation in Schools. How can and should educators teach controversial issues in schools? This is a perennial question, but one that has heightened salience in these unsettled times. What principles and practices should guide educators’ choices about what to include in the curriculum, and what to leave out as either “too hot to handle” or inappropriate to be treated as something open to debate? How have educators tried to protect themselves or their students when investigating contested topics, and what happens when things go wrong?
Panelists: Curtis Acosta, Dafney Blanca Dabach, Diana Hess
Chair: Randall Kennedy
Location: Eidman Courtroom

10:45 – 12:15 Fault Lines in the Constitution. To the extent that the Constitution is taught in middle schools and high schools today, focus is generally placed on two areas: (1) the genius of the Framers in creating a government of divided and balanced powers, and (2) the perfection of the rights accorded to citizens, particularly those embedded in the Bill of Rights. Such anodyne and uncritical approaches to our founding document, however, diminish students' civic capacities. As the panelists will explain, celebratory approaches to teaching the Constitution are both inadequate and inaccurate. Cynthia Levinson and Sanford Levinson, authors of Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws that Affect Us Today, a book for young readers, explain an alternative perspective on the Constitution, focusing on the ways that the structures of our government contribute to dysfunctionalities in American political life. In addition, an educator will provide insights into ways to make civics education more complex and comprehensive.
Panelists: Cynthia Levinson, Sanford Levinson, Aaron Hull, Katherina Payne
Moderator: Meira Levinson
Location: Eidman Courtroom

1:30 – 3:00 Schools as Civic Actors. Civic education is traditionally thought of as a subject (like math or science), a set of pedagogies (such as in-class discussion or action civics), or extracurricular learning opportunities (such as student government or debate). But schools also educate civically by modeling civic values and engagement themselves as civic actors. This can prove challenging when teachers, administrators, students, and parents are divided about what their obligations should be. Should schools create “sanctuary campuses” intended to disrupt the school-to-deportation pipeline? How should they respond when students stage school walkouts over civic and political issues, or when students who merely repeat politicians’ statements run afoul of anti-bullying laws? This session will immerse participants in case study discussions about how educators and policy makers are addressing schools’ responsibilities as civic actors in times of upheaval.
Case leaders: Meira Levinson, Jacob Fay
Location: Eidman Courtroom

3:00 Summary comments and farewells: Sandy Levinson, Meira Levinson
Location: Eidman Courtroom
RSVP Here:
Note: Teachers can get Continuing Education credit through the State Bar of Texas.

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