Announcing the Luxenberg Education Fund, the Hiring of Aya Marczyk as Education Director, and a New Project on Teaching Critical Thinking Skills

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The Foreign Policy Research Institute is pleased to announce the creation of the Luxenberg Education Fund. The Fund will honor FPRI President Alan Luxenberg’s 44 years of service to FPRI and his deep commitment to civic education.

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Our goal is to leverage FPRI’s 30 years of experience in civic education, along with our existing local and national partnerships to help prepare students for the demands of democratic citizenship in the coming decades of the 21st century.

The Foreign Policy Research Institute is pleased to announce the creation of the Luxenberg Education Fund. The Fund will honor FPRI President Alan Luxenberg’s 44 years of service to FPRI and his deep commitment to civic education.

During his 9-year tenure as President, Luxenberg has greatly enhanced the scope of FPRI’s activities, elevated its public profile, incorporated diverse viewpoints, and strongly emphasized the organization’s nonpartisan orientation. And he has worked tirelessly to advance FPRI’s civic literacy initiatives. The fund will recognize Luxenberg’s vision of civic education as a pillar of a democratic society, and it will significantly enhance FPRI’s work with the upcoming generation and their teachers.

In 2020, FPRI will reorient its educational offerings with a focus on nurturing critical thinking and civic literacy via historical analysis. We aim to build a research-based high school World History curriculum that engages students in analyzing historical arguments and evidence. The curriculum will be based on extensive piloting already begun with teachers and students, and it will be further developed in collaboration with school districts, teachers, historians, and education scholars. We will conduct ongoing classroom testing of the curriculum, and offer an associated practice-based professional development program for teachers.

Concurrently, we will evaluate and re-align our existing education programs to emphasize key skills like critical analysis, problem solving, and collaboration. Our goal is to leverage FPRI’s 30 years of experience in civic education, along with our existing local and national partnerships to help prepare students for the demands of democratic citizenship in the coming decades of the 21st century.

The development of the new World History curriculum and re-alignment of FPRI’s other education initiatives will be led by our new Education Director, Dr. Agnieszka Aya Marczyk. She has been a key contributor to FPRI’s Project on Democratic Transitions and its Eurasia Program for the past six years, focusing on the challenges of building and defending democracy, and on using history education as an essential means in that endeavor.

Dr. Marczyk has a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in modern European intellectual history, and prior to joining FPRI she taught interdisciplinary history courses at Penn, at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at Jagiellonian University, and at Collegium Civitas in Warsaw, Poland. Her teaching and instructional design work includes courses on modern Europe, comparative revolutions, modernist culture and politics, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union. She is a recipient of two student-nominated teaching awards and has collaborated with the Penn Center for Teaching and Learning to design and implement pedagogical trainings for graduate students. Dr. Marczyk also holds degrees in experimental cognitive psychology - a BA from Brown University and a Master of Science from Bucknell University; this training informs her work in history education.

She conceptualized and pilot-tested the World History curriculum in collaboration with teachers, historians, and education scholars. Her work has been received with enthusiasm because while historical inquiry is valued and emphasized as a goal in schools and districts in the Philadelphia region and nationally, in practice it is challenging to implement in classrooms. One senior curriculum specialist in a local school district echoed a broader sentiment when he stressed that this project meets an important need: “Instructional materials tend to be too neatly packaged (like a traditional textbook) or too disparate (open resources on the internet). And, without sustained professional development modeling for teachers how to undertake the “doing” of history, teachers may prefer to revert back to the way they were taught.” Since the Common Core emphasizes STEM subjects and English Language Arts, social studies teachers tend not to have access to as many inquiry-oriented resources as their peers in other departments.

To be useful, curricular materials and professional development must be developed in close collaboration with teachers, incorporating their experiences and insights. Over 50 teachers provided feedback on our materials in the pilot study, and several taught the lessons in their classrooms, adapting them to the specific needs of their students. A teacher who taught a lesson on the Third Reich to tenth graders commented: “I truly enjoyed this lesson and I plan on using it for the upcoming academic year. The students loved the lesson because of the presentation of the materials and the organization of the information. It allowed them to explore important concepts of propaganda, civil coercion, and internal marginalization of the populace.”

As we develop the curriculum, we will continue building strong and sustainable partnerships with schools and districts in the greater Philadelphia region to support their efforts to make historical inquiry a robust component of their curricula and teaching practice.

More information about the Luxenberg Education Fund can be found here - we hope you will consider supporting our new initiative.

About the Foreign Policy Research Institute

The Foreign Policy Research Institute is a non-profit, nonpartisan think tank located in Center City Philadelphia. It is dedicated to producing the highest quality scholarship and nonpartisan policy analysis focused on crucial foreign policy and national security challenges facing the United States. We educate those who make and influence policy, as well as the public at large, through the lens of history, geography, and culture.

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