Montpelier’s Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Spearhead Rebranding of Civic Education

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Strategic planning summit on online civic education will include The National Constitution Center and university presidents Ed Ayers and Jon Alger.

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.

On November 3 and 4, the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison’s Montpelier will aim to rebrand “civic education” in a strategic planning summit with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, university presidents Ed Ayers (University of Richmond) and Jon Alger (James Madison University), and thought leaders from across the civic education, marketing, and branding industries.

Participants will plan using a 25-year horizon leading up to the 250th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 2037. Underpinning the conversation is the assumption that technology is a key asset in scaling the impact of learning models for both young and adult learners.

“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 reach of the Internet in order to bring these critical resources into our homes, libraries, and classrooms.”

The group will explore how public/private partnerships might develop and launch public campaigns to rebrand “civics” and ways to increase awareness and participation in American civic society. Montpelier, the National Constitution Center, and O’Connor’s own organization, iCivics, plan to take prominent roles in the implementation of the summit’s vision by engaging partners, corporations, and the U.S. government in the years to come.

Montpelier’s Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution has demonstrated its handle on web-based technology with its groundbreaking tool, ConText, an online resource that uses crowdsourcing as a propeller to review and discuss America’s founding documents. In collaboration with the Brookings Institution, ConText originally debuted in 2012 with a focus on James Madison’s notes on the 1787 Federal Convention. Today the ConText site also includes the U.S. Constitution as well as a growing collection of constitutions from other nations, international charters, and historical documents from around the world. The annotations and discussions provided by historians, political theorists, technological innovators, educators, and the public help explain these important but often complex texts.

About The Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution
The Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier seeks to enable the public to expand its knowledge and understanding of the Constitution. Through nonpartisan online and on-site programs, the Center inspires participation in civic dialogue, improves the public’s understanding of U.S. founding principles, and enables citizens to deepen their understanding of and participation in our constitutional self-government. To date the Center has served teachers from all 50 states, judges, state legislators, police officers, members of the media, and dignitaries from more than 60 countries. To learn more, visit montpelier.org/center.

About James Madison's Montpelier
Montpelier is the lifelong home of James Madison, Father of the Constitution, Architect of the Bill of Rights, and fourth President of the United States. Montpelier is administered by The Montpelier Foundation, which seeks to inspire continuing public engagement with American constitutional self-government by bringing to life the home and contributions of James and Dolley Madison. The historic home and grounds are open to visitors and student groups throughout the year, and through the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution, Montpelier provides world-class residential and online educational programs. Montpelier is a National Trust Historic Site. To learn more, visit http://www.montpelier.org or contact cgodfrey(at)montpelier(dot)org.

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Caroline Godfrey
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