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  • For Students in Coal Country, the Census Is a Hands-On Civics Lesson Does the census count? That is what students in Kentucky are learning about in this great article about coal country. Not just why the census is important, but also the complications that extend beyond the citizenship question to other people who may be [...]

  • The bucket list for involved citizens: 76 things you can do to boost civic engagement We are so enthusiastic about what you can do to get involved and become more civic-minded. Our partners at Brookings Institute put some context around the 76 things you can do now to boost civic engagement. The list is similar [...]

  • A 'Roadmap' for Teaching Civics and History Is Coming. Will It Restart an Old Curriculum War? An award was giving to iCivics by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and U.S. Department of Education to put together a "roadmap" for teachers to educate their students on history, civics and the like. They expect to have [...]

  • East German kids were 'taught to lie.' Then the system came crashing down overnight Many stories are coming out on this, the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This one in particular is an important read, as it talks about the systematic education of children in the East, and its rapid dismantling [...]

  • An original series from the Washington Post Every news story has a story. Go beyond the headlines with Libby Casey as she explains how journalists do their jobs. This is the first of a series of videos that tell the story of what it means to be a political journalist in America in 2020.

  • On this episode of Hidden Brain, the tone of American politics can be…nasty. It doesn’t take a seasoned political analyst to see that. But is this nastiness really worse than in previous eras, and if so, what does that mean for our democracy? Historian David Moss takes the long view. He argues that our political […]

  • Reader’s Digest put together this set of 15 slides that give you answers to all the questions you think you should know but were afraid to ask. Here you’ll find answer that range from “What is the Electoral College?” to “What is the point of a filibuster?” and “What is the difference between a legislator, […]

  • Bush v. Gore: How a Recount Dispute Affects Voting Today The dramatic controversy surrounding the 2000 presidential election, one of the closest in U.S. history, led to sweeping voting reforms, but opened the door to a new set of problems that continue to affect elections today. Retro Report is an independent, nonprofit news organization that […]

  • Civics 101: A Podcast is produced by NHPR, New Hampshire Public Radio. It is a series of podcasts explore the core principles of our democracy. Each episode of Civics101: Starter Kit, explains the basics: Checks and Balances, Executive Branch, Legislative Branch, etc.  Civics 101: Founding Documents covers, well, the Founding Documents. Civics 101: Life Stages […]

  • Becoming a democratic citizen involves a set of behaviors that need to be learned and practiced over time. One of the first places for that conditioning to happen is in the classroom. Beyond reading, writing, and STEM skills, students have an opportunity to engage in dialogue and debate facilitated by their teachers and learn what […]

  • American democracy is in crisis, with a coarsening of our national conversation and an erosion of public trust that threatens the guardrails of self-government. Many citizens feel dislocated, disempowered and believe that remote institutions and government don’t listen to their needs and interests. One way to bridge divides is to listen to a broader range […]

  • What do you do when talk about when preparing the food is done and it’s time to sit down and eat. This story from the New York Times Food Festival special section gives you some tips for how to prepare for, well, the roasting that comes along with a beautiful roasted bird (or other favorite […]

  • The 2020 Election Is Already Stressing People Out, Data Shows In a recent article published in HuffPost, over half of the country is already stressed out about the 2020 elections. Thankfully, HuffPo published a few simple tricks to reduce your anxiety in the run-up between now and next November. Read the stats and their survival [...]

  • All the Rage A philosopher on why anger has become the default reaction toward those we disagree with—and what we can do about it. Originally post on Humanities Washington blog on July 2, 2019 Interview with David E. Smith, Interviewer: Jeffrey Howard Whether it’s the bumper stickers we place on our cars, the signs we […]

  • When Public Schools Were Considered Vital to Democracy Americans used to think free public education was a cornerstone of a democratic republic. What happened?      NOTE: Originally posted on the Humanities Washington blog on March 1, 2019 Written by Johann Neem “A republic, if you can keep it.” Those were the words Benjamin Franklin supposedly [...]

  • Primers On Democracy Bites Media has put together this list of very accessible explanations that touch core and current issues. Bookmark these links for when you are reading the news and need some clarification on terms and legalese. Thanks Bites! Federal branches: The United States Congress The U.S. Supreme Court Executive branch & powers: Veto [...]

  • Our friends at Reader’s Digest resurfaced a great essay from a very different time in our nation’s history. Yet it is still a great and important read. Click on the link below to read more.

  • Democracy 76: The Bucket List for Involved Citizens #WeThePurple Top 5 Things To Do Right Now   Stay Informed: Read and subscribe to daily local, regional, or national newspapers! Check out Allsides.com for news from the right, the left, and the center. Vote: Local, state, national elections matter! Find out when elections are happening from U.S. Vote Foundation. Participate: Contact elected officials, [...]

  • This 1954 Essay on Humanity Is More Relevant Now Than Ever

    Our friends at Reader’s Digest resurfaced a great essay from a very different time in our nation’s history. Yet it is still a great and important read. Click on the link below to read more.

  • American Democracy: “Productive Conflict,” Or A Dumpster Fire?

    On this episode of Hidden Brain, the tone of American politics can be…nasty. It doesn’t take a seasoned political analyst to see that. But is this nastiness really worse than in previous eras, and if so, what does that mean for our democracy?

    Historian David Moss takes the long view. He argues that our political systems are much more resilient than we realize, and that conflict, however bitter it may seem, can be productive.

    In his new book, Democracy: A Case Study, Moss points out that there have been many moments in our history when panicked Americans wondered if the nation would survive. And yet, the United States is still here.

    Furthermore, Moss says, many of the most intractable conflicts have resulted in innovations and compromises that still impact the way our government works today.

    This episode of Hidden Brain covers history and the lessons it holds for our modern political conflicts.

  • Hello My Name Is America: A Fork in the Road

    Ever wondered how our democracy will survive if we continue on this path of self-destruction? If so, you won’t want to miss this discussion with Mark Gerzon, author and President of Mediators Foundation, as he shares with us why the engine of democracy is breaking down, and what he believes we could do to fix it. 

    Listen Here

    In a powerful conversation, Mark sheds light on the splendor of our complexity, highlighting that no American can be summed up as simply red or blue. He explains our desperate need to get outside our comfort zone and learn from people who are different than we are. 

    The Purple Podcast Playlist

    These podcasts explore what it means to be an engaged citizen in a democracy and combine professional and academic expertise with boots-on-the-ground work happening in communities across the country.

    Click the links to open the episodes or search for these shows in your favorite podcast app. If you are brand new to podcasts, this article explains how to find them on any device. Happy listening!

  • From Humanities Washington – When Public Schools Were Considered Vital to Democracy

    When Public Schools Were Considered Vital to Democracy

    Americans used to think free public education was a cornerstone of a democratic republic. What happened? 

     

     

    • NOTE: Originally posted on the Humanities Washington blog on March 1, 2019
    • Written by Johann Neem

    “A republic, if you can keep it.” Those were the words Benjamin Franklin supposedly used when he emerged from the Constitutional Convention and was asked what kind of government the Framers were proposing.

    For America’s founders, public education was essential to keeping the republic. Thomas Jefferson famously proclaimed that of all the arguments for education, “none is more important, none more legitimate, than that of rendering the people the safe, as they are the ultimate, guardians of their own liberty.” He proposed an ambitious public education program for Virginia, but his plans never reached fruition during his lifetime.

    Other states were more successful, however. By the 1820s and 1830s, a growing number of Americans were arguing that schools must be free, supported by taxes, and made available to all children. By the Civil War, most white children in the North attended public tax-supported schools, and the numbers were rising in the South as well. But those ideals had limits: racial segregation in the North meant that fewer African Americans had the same access and, it goes without saying, enslaved people were denied access altogether.

    Americans at the time considered public schools vital for preparing new citizens for participation in a democracy. Moreover, at a time of rising immigration, they were seen as necessary to bring together an increasingly diverse society. “Our public schools are the most democratic institutions that this peculiarly democratic country affords,” proclaimed E. Hodges, superintendent of schools in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, in 1854. Schools should treat all children equally, educating them not just in the “rudiments,” but instilling them with the knowledge necessary for citizenship. In a society divided by religion, ethnicity, party, and wealth, public schools would “harmonize the various discordant elements that are found in society,” because students would “sympathize with and for the other.” In public schools, diverse people would come to think of each other as fellow Americans.

     

    To their advocates, public schools served public functions. They would prepare citizens and, by bringing together all kinds of Americans, they would help forge a national community.

    It was not just immigration but growing economic inequality that concerned advocates of public schools. John Pierce, the new state of Michigan’s superintendent of public instruction, celebrated public schools where “all classes are blended together; the rich mingle with the poor, and are educated in company . . . and mutual attachments are formed.”

    Horace Mann, Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education and the so-called “founding father” of American public education, considered bringing together rich and poor to be one of the most important functions of public schools. If rich parents “turn away from the Common Schools” and choose to send their kids to “the private school or the academy” (the chartered schools of their era), then the poor would end up with a second-class education. To ensure that students, and their parents, intermingle, “there should be a free school, sufficiently safe, and sufficiently good, for all the children within its territory.”

    But in the past several decades, Americans have begun to question these ideals. Confidence in public education has dropped off a cliff since the 1970s, with only one-third of Americans saying they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the nation’s public schools, compared with two-thirds during the 1970s. At the same time, support for alternatives like charter schools and private school vouchers has risen.

     

    To their advocates, public schools served public functions. They would prepare citizens and, by bringing together all kinds of Americans, they would help forge a national community. Today, however, we seem less certain of that project. For many American leaders, schools serve economic rather than civic purposes. In the words of the Common Core State Standards, graduates of public schools must exhibit “college and career readiness,” a less lofty ambition than the prior stated hopes for public schools. In contrast, during an earlier effort to create national standards during the first Bush administration, the National Education Goals Panel argued that higher academic achievement would prepare students for “citizenship, further learning, and productive employment.” It argued that readiness for the job market was only one outcome of a good education, and it came after education’s impact on citizenship and human beings.

    If our leaders today emphasize economics, other Americans question the public schools’ historic role of forging a common nation out of a diverse population.

    On the left, some advocates of multiculturalism worry about efforts to foster a common culture. They instead urge schools to offer culturally-specific programs to minorities. On the right, many evangelicals and members of other religions have argued that secular public schools threaten their children’s faith, so they advocate using public funds for private and religious schools. Supporting these families, our current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has devoted much of her public career to enabling parents to choose schools that reflect their own values instead of bringing all Americans together into public schools.

    But what about common American values? Can we, as citizens, even agree on what those values are? Should schools bring diverse people together to foster a shared civic culture and to promote American ideals? And do we want to move beyond the language of college and career readiness to emphasize once again the ideals of citizenship? If so, how do we do so in a diverse society?

    None of these questions are new. They were the kinds of questions that Americans confronted after the Revolution when they built our first public schools. But these questions have, if anything, become even more pressing for us today.

     

  • From CNN: East German children taught to lie, then the system fell.

    East German kids were ‘taught to lie.’ Then the system came crashing down overnight

    Many stories are coming out on this, the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This one in particular is an important read, as it talks about the systematic education of children in the East, and its rapid dismantling after the wall fell

    East German kids were ‘taught to lie.’ Then the system came crashing down overnight (Source: CNN Nov 9, 2019)

    The photos and stories in the piece highlight an era where truth was shrouded and alternate voices were not permitted to speak.

  • From Humanities Washington – When Public Schools Were Considered Vital to Democracy

    When Public Schools Were Considered Vital to Democracy

    Americans used to think free public education was a cornerstone of a democratic republic. What happened? 

     

     

    • NOTE: Originally posted on the Humanities Washington blog on March 1, 2019
    • Written by Johann Neem

    “A republic, if you can keep it.” Those were the words Benjamin Franklin supposedly used when he emerged from the Constitutional Convention and was asked what kind of government the Framers were proposing.

    For America’s founders, public education was essential to keeping the republic. Thomas Jefferson famously proclaimed that of all the arguments for education, “none is more important, none more legitimate, than that of rendering the people the safe, as they are the ultimate, guardians of their own liberty.” He proposed an ambitious public education program for Virginia, but his plans never reached fruition during his lifetime.

    Other states were more successful, however. By the 1820s and 1830s, a growing number of Americans were arguing that schools must be free, supported by taxes, and made available to all children. By the Civil War, most white children in the North attended public tax-supported schools, and the numbers were rising in the South as well. But those ideals had limits: racial segregation in the North meant that fewer African Americans had the same access and, it goes without saying, enslaved people were denied access altogether.

    Americans at the time considered public schools vital for preparing new citizens for participation in a democracy. Moreover, at a time of rising immigration, they were seen as necessary to bring together an increasingly diverse society. “Our public schools are the most democratic institutions that this peculiarly democratic country affords,” proclaimed E. Hodges, superintendent of schools in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, in 1854. Schools should treat all children equally, educating them not just in the “rudiments,” but instilling them with the knowledge necessary for citizenship. In a society divided by religion, ethnicity, party, and wealth, public schools would “harmonize the various discordant elements that are found in society,” because students would “sympathize with and for the other.” In public schools, diverse people would come to think of each other as fellow Americans.

     

    To their advocates, public schools served public functions. They would prepare citizens and, by bringing together all kinds of Americans, they would help forge a national community.

    It was not just immigration but growing economic inequality that concerned advocates of public schools. John Pierce, the new state of Michigan’s superintendent of public instruction, celebrated public schools where “all classes are blended together; the rich mingle with the poor, and are educated in company . . . and mutual attachments are formed.”

    Horace Mann, Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education and the so-called “founding father” of American public education, considered bringing together rich and poor to be one of the most important functions of public schools. If rich parents “turn away from the Common Schools” and choose to send their kids to “the private school or the academy” (the chartered schools of their era), then the poor would end up with a second-class education. To ensure that students, and their parents, intermingle, “there should be a free school, sufficiently safe, and sufficiently good, for all the children within its territory.”

    But in the past several decades, Americans have begun to question these ideals. Confidence in public education has dropped off a cliff since the 1970s, with only one-third of Americans saying they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the nation’s public schools, compared with two-thirds during the 1970s. At the same time, support for alternatives like charter schools and private school vouchers has risen.

     

    To their advocates, public schools served public functions. They would prepare citizens and, by bringing together all kinds of Americans, they would help forge a national community. Today, however, we seem less certain of that project. For many American leaders, schools serve economic rather than civic purposes. In the words of the Common Core State Standards, graduates of public schools must exhibit “college and career readiness,” a less lofty ambition than the prior stated hopes for public schools. In contrast, during an earlier effort to create national standards during the first Bush administration, the National Education Goals Panel argued that higher academic achievement would prepare students for “citizenship, further learning, and productive employment.” It argued that readiness for the job market was only one outcome of a good education, and it came after education’s impact on citizenship and human beings.

    If our leaders today emphasize economics, other Americans question the public schools’ historic role of forging a common nation out of a diverse population.

    On the left, some advocates of multiculturalism worry about efforts to foster a common culture. They instead urge schools to offer culturally-specific programs to minorities. On the right, many evangelicals and members of other religions have argued that secular public schools threaten their children’s faith, so they advocate using public funds for private and religious schools. Supporting these families, our current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has devoted much of her public career to enabling parents to choose schools that reflect their own values instead of bringing all Americans together into public schools.

    But what about common American values? Can we, as citizens, even agree on what those values are? Should schools bring diverse people together to foster a shared civic culture and to promote American ideals? And do we want to move beyond the language of college and career readiness to emphasize once again the ideals of citizenship? If so, how do we do so in a diverse society?

    None of these questions are new. They were the kinds of questions that Americans confronted after the Revolution when they built our first public schools. But these questions have, if anything, become even more pressing for us today.

     

  • 14 Quotes About Democracy That Will Make You Want to Get Out and Vote

    These quotes are so remarkable, and so on point, that we’d love to share them over and over. Check out the full list on Reader’s Digest here.

  • 15 Political Questions You’ve Been Too Embarrassed to Ask

    Reader’s Digest put together this set of 15 slides that give you answers to all the questions you think you should know but were afraid to ask.

    Here you’ll find answer that range from “What is the Electoral College?” to “What is the point of a filibuster?” and “What is the difference between a legislator, congressperson, and representative?”

  • The Birth of the U.S. Political Convention in 1831 (via Retro Report)

    The Birth of the U.S. Political Convention in 1831

    In 1831, a radical third party came up with a new way to select a presidential candidate, one that is in use today: the national nominating convention. This video, released in 2016, has insights that continue to resonate.

    Retro Report is an independent, nonprofit news organization that explores the history behind the headlines. Learn more at RetroReport.org.

  • Upheaval at the 1860 Democratic Convention: What Happened When a Party Split (via Retro Report)

    Upheaval at the 1860 Democratic Convention: What Happend When a Party Split

    Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860 and his subsequent assault on slavery might not have happened had the Democratic Party not been in such disarray. This video, released in 2016, has insights that continue to resonate today. 

    Retro Report is an independent, nonprofit news organization that explores the history behind the headlines. Learn more at RetroReport.org.

  • Teddy Roosevelt and the Roots of Our Presidential Primaries (via Retro Report)

    Teddy Roosevelt and the Roots of Our Presidential Primaries

    In 1912, a battle over presidential primary elections transformed American politics. This video, released in 2016, has insights that continue to resonate today.

    Retro Report is an independent, nonprofit news organization that explores the history behind the headlines. Learn more at RetroReport.org.

  • Bush v. Gore: How a Recount Dispute Affects Voting Today (via Retro Report)


    Bush v. Gore: How a Recount Dispute Affects Voting Today

    The dramatic controversy surrounding the 2000 presidential election, one of the closest in U.S. history, led to sweeping voting reforms, but opened the door to a new set of problems that continue to affect elections today.

    Retro Report is an independent, nonprofit news organization that explores the history behind the headlines. Learn more at RetroReport.org

  • Podcast Series: Civics 101

    Civics 101: A Podcast is produced by NHPR, New Hampshire Public Radio. It is a series of podcasts explore the core principles of our democracy.

    Each episode of Civics101: Starter Kit, explains the basics: Checks and Balances, Executive Branch, Legislative Branch, etc. 

    Civics 101: Founding Documents covers, well, the Founding Documents.

    Civics 101: Life Stages explores how the role government plays in every stage of a citizen’s life from birth to death. 

  • Another Way: Evan McMullin on Rebuilding Our Democracy

    Evan McMullin came to national prominence when he ran for president in 2016 as an independent, anti-Trump conservative. Since the 2016 election, he has been a strong and principled independent voice on many issues. 

    McMillin talk with Another Way host Larry Lessig about how to find common ground to rebuild and improve our democracy, which he believes is “under threat” right now. He says he is excited about the possibility of forming a cross-partisan coalition for gerrymandering reform, ranked-choice voting, and more.

    Listen Here

    More Purple Episodes

    The Purple Podcast Playlist

    These podcasts explore what it means to be an engaged citizen in a democracy and combine professional and academic expertise with boots-on-the-ground work happening in communities across the country.

    Click the links to open the episodes or search for these shows in your favorite podcast app. If you are brand new to podcasts, this article explains how to find them on any device. Happy listening!

  • From Humanities Washington – When Public Schools Were Considered Vital to Democracy

    When Public Schools Were Considered Vital to Democracy

    Americans used to think free public education was a cornerstone of a democratic republic. What happened? 

     

     

    • NOTE: Originally posted on the Humanities Washington blog on March 1, 2019
    • Written by Johann Neem

    “A republic, if you can keep it.” Those were the words Benjamin Franklin supposedly used when he emerged from the Constitutional Convention and was asked what kind of government the Framers were proposing.

    For America’s founders, public education was essential to keeping the republic. Thomas Jefferson famously proclaimed that of all the arguments for education, “none is more important, none more legitimate, than that of rendering the people the safe, as they are the ultimate, guardians of their own liberty.” He proposed an ambitious public education program for Virginia, but his plans never reached fruition during his lifetime.

    Other states were more successful, however. By the 1820s and 1830s, a growing number of Americans were arguing that schools must be free, supported by taxes, and made available to all children. By the Civil War, most white children in the North attended public tax-supported schools, and the numbers were rising in the South as well. But those ideals had limits: racial segregation in the North meant that fewer African Americans had the same access and, it goes without saying, enslaved people were denied access altogether.

    Americans at the time considered public schools vital for preparing new citizens for participation in a democracy. Moreover, at a time of rising immigration, they were seen as necessary to bring together an increasingly diverse society. “Our public schools are the most democratic institutions that this peculiarly democratic country affords,” proclaimed E. Hodges, superintendent of schools in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, in 1854. Schools should treat all children equally, educating them not just in the “rudiments,” but instilling them with the knowledge necessary for citizenship. In a society divided by religion, ethnicity, party, and wealth, public schools would “harmonize the various discordant elements that are found in society,” because students would “sympathize with and for the other.” In public schools, diverse people would come to think of each other as fellow Americans.

     

    To their advocates, public schools served public functions. They would prepare citizens and, by bringing together all kinds of Americans, they would help forge a national community.

    It was not just immigration but growing economic inequality that concerned advocates of public schools. John Pierce, the new state of Michigan’s superintendent of public instruction, celebrated public schools where “all classes are blended together; the rich mingle with the poor, and are educated in company . . . and mutual attachments are formed.”

    Horace Mann, Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education and the so-called “founding father” of American public education, considered bringing together rich and poor to be one of the most important functions of public schools. If rich parents “turn away from the Common Schools” and choose to send their kids to “the private school or the academy” (the chartered schools of their era), then the poor would end up with a second-class education. To ensure that students, and their parents, intermingle, “there should be a free school, sufficiently safe, and sufficiently good, for all the children within its territory.”

    But in the past several decades, Americans have begun to question these ideals. Confidence in public education has dropped off a cliff since the 1970s, with only one-third of Americans saying they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the nation’s public schools, compared with two-thirds during the 1970s. At the same time, support for alternatives like charter schools and private school vouchers has risen.

     

    To their advocates, public schools served public functions. They would prepare citizens and, by bringing together all kinds of Americans, they would help forge a national community. Today, however, we seem less certain of that project. For many American leaders, schools serve economic rather than civic purposes. In the words of the Common Core State Standards, graduates of public schools must exhibit “college and career readiness,” a less lofty ambition than the prior stated hopes for public schools. In contrast, during an earlier effort to create national standards during the first Bush administration, the National Education Goals Panel argued that higher academic achievement would prepare students for “citizenship, further learning, and productive employment.” It argued that readiness for the job market was only one outcome of a good education, and it came after education’s impact on citizenship and human beings.

    If our leaders today emphasize economics, other Americans question the public schools’ historic role of forging a common nation out of a diverse population.

    On the left, some advocates of multiculturalism worry about efforts to foster a common culture. They instead urge schools to offer culturally-specific programs to minorities. On the right, many evangelicals and members of other religions have argued that secular public schools threaten their children’s faith, so they advocate using public funds for private and religious schools. Supporting these families, our current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has devoted much of her public career to enabling parents to choose schools that reflect their own values instead of bringing all Americans together into public schools.

    But what about common American values? Can we, as citizens, even agree on what those values are? Should schools bring diverse people together to foster a shared civic culture and to promote American ideals? And do we want to move beyond the language of college and career readiness to emphasize once again the ideals of citizenship? If so, how do we do so in a diverse society?

    None of these questions are new. They were the kinds of questions that Americans confronted after the Revolution when they built our first public schools. But these questions have, if anything, become even more pressing for us today.

     

  • This 1954 Essay on Humanity Is More Relevant Now Than Ever

    Our friends at Reader’s Digest resurfaced a great essay from a very different time in our nation’s history. Yet it is still a great and important read. Click on the link below to read more.

  • A Harvard Professor Asks: How Do You Teach Patriotism to 9-Year-Olds?

    Every morning, fifth graders in schools across the nation recite the pledge of allegiance. But what does it truly mean to salute the American flag?

    Harvard Medical School professor Robert Coles, M.D. recounts his 5th grade experience on the subject, learning about the benefits of conflict and resolution that define our democracy.

    Read the full article on Reader’s Digest.

  • Democracy 76: The Bucket List for Involved Citizens

    Democracy 76: The Bucket List for Involved Citizens

    #WeThePurple Top 5 Things To Do Right Now

     

    • Stay Informed: Read and subscribe to daily local, regional, or national newspapers!
      • Check out Allsides.com for news from the right, the left, and the center.
    • Vote: Local, state, national elections matter! Find out when elections are happening from U.S. Vote Foundation.
    • Participate: Contact elected officials, share your views on issues you care about!
    • Help Others: Identify a problem in your community and work with your neighbors to fix it.
    • Get Social: Follow, like, and repost content on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and @JoinWeThePurple on Snapchat and turn your social purple with #WeThePurple!

    Stay Informed

     

    1. Read and subscribe to daily local, regional, or national newspapers! Check out Allsides.com for news from the right, the left, and the center.
    2. Facts matter: Is your news source trustworthy?  Check out these non-partisan organizations: factcheck.organd University of Virginia’s Center for Politics media literacy tips.
    3. Fill your pocket with democracy. Pick up a pocket sized Constitution for as little $1.
    4. Get the facts on any politician or political candidate at the non-partisan Votesmart.org.
    5. Talk with someone who doesn’t share your political views. The non-partisan organization  BetterAngels.org is helping people do this all across the country.
    6. Attend a discussion or event in your community or school focused on an issue you care about or want to learn more about.
    7. Shadow a public servant for the day and learn how our institutions work.
    8. Visit a museum. Learn about local, regional, and national history, and about those who have taken civic action in the past.
    9. Visit a library. Librarians can point you to important books on our American Democracy.
    10. Deep dive into the Constitution. The National Constitution Center has an interactive line-by-line breakdown.

    Vote

     

    1. Vote: Local, state, national elections matter! Find out when elections are happening from U.S. Vote Foundation.
    2. Make sure you’re registered to vote at Vote.gov or use Turbovote.org for quick and easy registration.
    3.  Make a voting pact with your friends or family. Collectively commit to register and vote.  Remind each other regularly. Make a plan to go to the polls together!
    4.  Volunteer to register voters. Search for your city and state, along with “voter registration drive” to find opportunities near you.
    5. If you are a boss, give your employees time off to vote.  If you are an employee, ask your boss to consider this.
    6. Volunteer to work at a polling place. To find out how, go to the Election Assistance Commission’s websiteor contact your local registrar.
    7. Offer to drive elderly voters to the polls. 
    8.  If you own a business, offer discounts to people who provide proof of voting on election days.  If you work at a business, ask your boss to consider this.
    9. Prepare to vote by checking ahead of time what will be on the ballot, reading up on the candidates and measures, locating your polling place, and knowing what you need to bring.
    10. If you are voting by absentee ballotpay attention to deadlines and follow all the steps in the instructions.

    Participate  

     

    1. Communicate with your elected officials to share your views on issues you care about. A letter, phone callor visit are still the best ways to contact them.
    2. Write an op-ed or letter to an editor.
    3. Attend a city council or community board meeting. The National League of Cities can help describe their function.
    4.  Advocate for civic education in schools. Not all states require it and you can join the  CivXNow campaign to push for it.
    5. Join a campaign. Volunteer for your preferred candidate.
    6. Become an ambassador supporting digital citizenship education by signing up with DigCitCommit.
    7. Join the Parent-Teacher Association at your local school.
    8. Get involved with the local school board. The National School Boards Association has good tips on how to engage.
    9. Join a political party.  Here is a list of all the political parties, what they stand for, and how to get involved.
    10. Run for office. If you don’t like the candidates you are choosing from, put on your shoes and run for office.

    Help Others

     

    1. Identify a problem in your community and work with your neighbors to fix it. 
    2. Plant a tree or garden in your community
    3. Share the #WeThePurple (weblink) Teacher Toolkit with teachers in your community. 
    4. Volunteer to serve as an officer or member of a group in your community.  Volunteer Match can help you connect to groups in your area.
    5. Visit someone else’s place of worship.
    6. Keep watch on children who play in your neighborhood.
    7. Paint a mural in a public space (with permission).
    8. Pick up trash in your or someone else’s neighborhood.
    9. Serve as a juror. If you are called for duty, remember our judicial system can’t work without citizen jurors.
    10. Collect food for those in need.
    11. Visit a nursing home or hospital. 
    12. Donate blood or plasma.
    13. Take a First Aid class.  The American Red Cross can help you be prepared to help those in need.
    14. Clean up the local park.
    15. Clean up a local river or lake.
    16. Help others in an emergency.
    17. If you own a gun, participate in a gun safety course.
    18. Host or be an exchange student. Rotary Youth Exchange is a good place to begin.
    19. Shop local and support small and local businesses.
    20. Contribute financially to a cause, even $5 can help.  Charity Watch is a good place to start if you need help identifying organizations to support.
    21. Support the teachers at your local school. Ask how you can help, start by supporting classroom projects through DonorsChoose.org.
    22. Volunteer at a museum.
    23. Volunteer at a public library. 
    24. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or food bank.
    25. Volunteer at a community garden.
    26. Volunteer to coach a youth sports team. 
    27. Volunteer to lead a youth group.
    28. Volunteer at a community center.
    29. Volunteer to help teachers: chaperone school trips to the local city hall, share your own experiences with engaging in your community and with your government.
    30. Do a year of serviceServiceyear.org can help you connect to thousands of opportunities to develop real-world skills while giving back to your community.
    31. Chose to work at a non-profit organization dedicated to helping others.
    32. Become a teacher.
    33. Become a firefighter.
    34. Become a police officer.
    35. Become a disaster volunteer.
    36. Join the military or national guard.

    Get Social

     

    1. Follow and like @JoinWeThePurple across social media.
    2. Download the #WeThePurple App in the App Store (coming soon!).
    3. Share and tag a #WeThePurple article or story. 
    4. Host or attend a debate watch party in your community or university.
    5. Host a Purple Conversation [link to purple website poster/5 questions] with family, friends or in your school, or community.  Use the tips on facilitating open dialogue from Living Room Conversations.
    6. Share the Purple song and tag it #WeThePurple.
    7. Host a picnic or block party in your neighborhood and (respectfully) talk to them about your views.
    8. Use your consumer power to support companies whose values you believe in.
    9. Go out and talk to people, use your hands and your time.
    10. Recruit a friend and start checking off items in the Democracy 76 Checklist together!

     

  • Prepping for Thanksgiving beyond the food

    What do you do when talk about when preparing the food is done and it’s time to sit down and eat. This story from the New York Times Food Festival special section gives you some tips for how to prepare for, well, the roasting that comes along with a beautiful roasted bird (or other favorite holiday dish).

  • The Birth of the U.S. Political Convention in 1831 (via Retro Report)

    The Birth of the U.S. Political Convention in 1831

    In 1831, a radical third party came up with a new way to select a presidential candidate, one that is in use today: the national nominating convention. This video, released in 2016, has insights that continue to resonate.

    Retro Report is an independent, nonprofit news organization that explores the history behind the headlines. Learn more at RetroReport.org.

  • Bush v. Gore: How a Recount Dispute Affects Voting Today (via Retro Report)


    Bush v. Gore: How a Recount Dispute Affects Voting Today

    The dramatic controversy surrounding the 2000 presidential election, one of the closest in U.S. history, led to sweeping voting reforms, but opened the door to a new set of problems that continue to affect elections today.

    Retro Report is an independent, nonprofit news organization that explores the history behind the headlines. Learn more at RetroReport.org

  • How Bork’s 1987 Nomination Muted Supreme Court Nomination Hearings (via Retro Report)

    How Bork’s 1987 Nomination Muted Supreme Court Nomination Hearings

    The contentious 1987 Senate confirmation hearings that led to the rejection of Robert H. Bork as a Supreme Court nominee fundamentally changed the nomination process. Since then, nominees to the Court have revealed almost nothing about their judicial philosophy, leaving open questions about their positions on issues that may come before the court.

    Retro Report is an independent, nonprofit news organization that explores the history behind the headlines. Learn more at RetroReport.org.

  • All the Rage – From Humanities Washington

    All the Rage

    A philosopher on why anger has become the default reaction toward those we disagree with—and what we can do about it.

    Whether it’s the bumper stickers we place on our cars, the signs we hang in our windows, or the way we carefully manicure our language, each of us feels a need to signal that we’re on the right side. In a period of hyper-partisanship, fueled by Twitter mobs and pile-ons, we’re scared of Scarlet letters. For fear of being deemed unclean by proxy, we end friendships, estrange ourselves from family members, and avoid reading from publications or news outlets which offer viewpoints our social groups find heretical. Those who try to bridge these divides risk being cast out or lampooned.

    Civil conversations, intellectual humility, and good-faith discussions are simply not in vogue right now. We need to challenge that.

    If we avoid uncomfortable ideas then we risk orienting ourselves around beliefs and practices that undermine our emotional health. If we fend off diverse viewpoints then we encase ourselves in intellectual bubbles and echo chambers; this jeopardizes constitutional republics and distorts reality, hindering our ability to solve problems—together. If we evade meaningful dialogue around maddeningly nuanced topics like politics, religion, gender and sexuality, or economics, then other foundational elements of society are likely to atrophy as well.

    The rejoinder to this is a commitment to civil conversations. Instead of isolating ourselves within our moral tribes and raging at each other on Twitter, we ought to keep our communication borders open.

    To help people have better conversations, philosopher David E. Smith, a professor at the University of Washington’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, is traveling throughout Washington State providing practical tools for more fruitful dialogue. A member of Humanities Washington’s Speakers Bureau, Smith presents a free talk: “Civil Conversation in an Angry Age.” Despite the pessimism he encounters among his presentation audiences, he believes that by focusing on our common humanity we can heal the divides in our families and communities, and move society forward.

    This interview has been edited down for style and brevity.

    Jeffrey Howard: Why are you so concerned with the state of civil discourse today? Sure, the United States has experienced greater divisions before—the US Civil War, for example—but where does our inability to speak openly and with intellectual charity originate?

    David E. Smith: It is true that incivility has been much worse in our past, but we need to do better [now]. No one possesses all the truth or all the wisdom. We need the insights that others have. I think we struggle with respectful discourse for many reasons. First, I think that we are afraid that if the beliefs of others came to dominate our society, or became law, we wouldn’t want to live in that world. (Or in some cases, those beliefs are the dominant ones and appear to be hurting us or people like us.) Second, when powerful, high-profile people are uncivil, it has a trickle-down effect. Incivility is contagious. But here’s the good news—so is civility!

    Which important topics do you find disagreeing individuals have the hardest time discussing?

    The hardest topics to discuss, I think, are what I call the big three: religion, politics, and ethics (controversial moral issues like abortion). In part, it’s because we have to make subjective judgments about them and because so many people have deep emotion connected to these issues.

    What are the common pitfalls we make that prevent us from understanding one another or resolving social problems? What are some concrete tactics we can use to overcome these?

    We struggle with incivility for many reasons. First, we fail to recognize our own fallibility and forget that we are surely wrong about something! Second, we are biased. I understand bias to be the desire for my beliefs to be true. We don’t just believe things—we like our beliefs! Third, identity. We don’t just say that we believe things. We say that we are those things. For example, people don’t say “I believe in the pro-life view of abortion” or “I believe in the pro-choice view.” They say I am pro-life or pro-choice. There’s a danger in making our beliefs a part of our identity. When people disagree with our beliefs, it feels like an attack on us even though it’s not.

    There’s a prevailing notion that we ought to engage with ideas through the lens of our respective identities (e.g. identity is primary). The idea of placing one’s beliefs on a table, so to speak, to be dissected and challenged by others, is offensive to some, if not dehumanizing. How would you challenge their reaction?

    There’s a difference between a natural identity and a belief-based identity. I am a straight, Caucasian (currently middle-aged) male because nature and/or nature’s God made me that way. But my beliefs about religion, ethics, and politics have been formed and changed through experience. We do not choose our beliefs—they form naturally as we live our lives and are exposed to many different influences. But I can change my mind about my beliefs and in fact, have done so in profound ways throughout my life. This sometimes happens automatically through new exposures (other people, evidence, etc.) and sometimes is the result of intentional questioning and research.

    I understand why we say that we are our beliefs and am not suggesting that we change the language. But we should be aware that there is a danger in identifying with our beliefs so closely. Certainly, we are all wrong about something and failing to recognize this is both morally and epistemologically troubling. Truth should matter more than our own beliefs and they are not identical.

    If I’m wrong about something and that wrong belief is a part of my identity, then perhaps more needs to change than my belief. Perhaps need to change. Personal growth is something that we should all value.

    What is an example of a time when you were persuaded on a hot-button issue by another person who exemplifies these principles or practices of civility?

    As a younger adult, I had a significant change of mind in religion, which has affected my beliefs in other areas of life as well. I can’t attribute this to any one person. It happened slowly over a 15-year period as I encountered evidences against my beliefs and allowed those evidences to modify those beliefs. It’s proof that some people really can change their minds no matter how deeply entrenched their beliefs may be.

    Some activists criticize the need for more civil conversation. They argue that calls for civility are merely tools used by the advantaged to maintain the status quo. How would you respond to those who believe uncivil behavior is necessary to create social change?

    We had to have a “civil” war to get rid of the great evil of slavery. (At least that form of it.) War is the most uncivil of human experiences. So yes, incivility may be necessary occasionally to bring about necessary change. But it should be the exception, not the rule. People sometimes associate protest with incivility. They absolutely are not the same thing. Protest can be bold and respectful at the same time.

    The satisfaction I receive knowing that my beliefs correspond to reality is worth the occasional pain of discovering that I’m wrong about something.

    What does a civil protest look like as compared to an uncivil one? 

    Whenever possible, protest legally and attack policies with your rhetoric, not people. Avoid damaging property. The right of assembly is guaranteed by the US Constitution, but like all rights, it is limited and regulated. If for some reason the law does not allow civil protest, then one must decide whether or not to break the law. Sometimes that must happen for progress to occur, and if one chooses to go there, then one must be prepared to endure the consequences.

    At which point does civil conversation become inappropriate, counterproductive, or even ethically suspect?

    Civil conversation may be inappropriate when it is insincere. If I find out that someone is being courteous just to avoid conflict or to let me feel good about myself, I feel unsettled. But we must remember that we cannot talk to everyone about everything. We must pick our conversation partners carefully. Civility may be ethically suspect when someone is committing a clear moral violation that hurts others and we fail to deal with it in the name of social grace.

    Which hot-button issue today do you think could benefit the most from a boost in civil conversation?

    Politics. I’ve heard people describe the dynamics between Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill in the 1980’s, and Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich in the 1990’s. Fierce political disagreements but always respectful. Let’s get back to doing business that way.

    What compelled you toward philosophy and what use do we have for it today? In what ways can non-philosophers’ lives benefit from it?

    Philosophy is literally the “love of wisdom.” Wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge in the real world in a constructive way. What could be more important than that? To be wise, we need truth, so philosophy is also the pursuit of truth in every area of life. I have always wanted the truth, even when it was potentially uncomfortable. The satisfaction I receive knowing that my beliefs correspond to reality is worth the occasional pain of discovering that I’m wrong about something. Everyone needs truth and wisdom. The world depends on these things.

  • Prepping for Thanksgiving beyond the food

    What do you do when talk about when preparing the food is done and it’s time to sit down and eat. This story from the New York Times Food Festival special section gives you some tips for how to prepare for, well, the roasting that comes along with a beautiful roasted bird (or other favorite holiday dish).

  • From CNN: East German children taught to lie, then the system fell.

    East German kids were ‘taught to lie.’ Then the system came crashing down overnight

    Many stories are coming out on this, the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This one in particular is an important read, as it talks about the systematic education of children in the East, and its rapid dismantling after the wall fell

    East German kids were ‘taught to lie.’ Then the system came crashing down overnight (Source: CNN Nov 9, 2019)

    The photos and stories in the piece highlight an era where truth was shrouded and alternate voices were not permitted to speak.

  • Podcast Series: Civics 101

    Civics 101: A Podcast is produced by NHPR, New Hampshire Public Radio. It is a series of podcasts explore the core principles of our democracy.

    Each episode of Civics101: Starter Kit, explains the basics: Checks and Balances, Executive Branch, Legislative Branch, etc. 

    Civics 101: Founding Documents covers, well, the Founding Documents.

    Civics 101: Life Stages explores how the role government plays in every stage of a citizen’s life from birth to death. 

  • Another Way: Evan McMullin on Rebuilding Our Democracy

    Evan McMullin came to national prominence when he ran for president in 2016 as an independent, anti-Trump conservative. Since the 2016 election, he has been a strong and principled independent voice on many issues. 

    McMillin talk with Another Way host Larry Lessig about how to find common ground to rebuild and improve our democracy, which he believes is “under threat” right now. He says he is excited about the possibility of forming a cross-partisan coalition for gerrymandering reform, ranked-choice voting, and more.

    Listen Here

    More Purple Episodes

    The Purple Podcast Playlist

    These podcasts explore what it means to be an engaged citizen in a democracy and combine professional and academic expertise with boots-on-the-ground work happening in communities across the country.

    Click the links to open the episodes or search for these shows in your favorite podcast app. If you are brand new to podcasts, this article explains how to find them on any device. Happy listening!

  • How Do We Fix It? Listen First & Democracy with Pierce Goodwin

    American democracy is in crisis, with a coarsening of our national conversation and an erosion of public trust that threatens the guardrails of self-government. Many citizens feel dislocated, disempowered and believe that remote institutions and government don’t listen to their needs and interests. One way to bridge divides is to listen to a broader range of opinions, from people not like you.

    Pearce Godwin, founder and CEO of Listen First Project, joins How Do We Fix It? Hosts Richard Davies and Jim Meigs to discuss the #ListenFirst movement as well as the thousands who have signed the Listen First Pledge.

    Listen Here

    More Purple Episodes

    The Purple Podcast Playlist

    These podcasts explore what it means to be an engaged citizen in a democracy and combine professional and academic expertise with boots-on-the-ground work happening in communities across the country.

    Click the links to open the episodes or search for these shows in your favorite podcast app. If you are brand new to podcasts, this article explains how to find them on any device. Happy listening!

  • Future Hindsight: A Playbook for Connecting with Your Representative

    Most members of Congress are decent people trying to do the best they can for their constituents. Engaging with them in a polite manner can be the best way for them to truly hear and understand the concerns of the people they represent. Congressional staffers are the unsung patriots of our democracy, who are dedicated to make the world a better place eventhough they often take a lot of grief on behalf of their members of Congress.

    Brad Fitch is the President and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation, a non-partisan non-profit organization that educates constituents on how Congress works, giving them a stronger voice in policy outcomes. Fitch and Future Hindsight host Mila Atmos discuss the power of in-person meetings, the necessary preparations for successful advocacy, and productive protest.

    Listen Here

    More Purple Episodes

    Purple Podcast Playlist

    These podcasts explore what it means to be an engaged citizen in a democracy and combine professional and academic expertise with boots-on-the-ground work happening in communities across the country.

    Click the links to open the episodes or search for these shows in your favorite podcast app. If you are brand new to podcasts, this article explains how to find them on any device. Happy listening!

  • Hello My Name Is America: A Fork in the Road

    Ever wondered how our democracy will survive if we continue on this path of self-destruction? If so, you won’t want to miss this discussion with Mark Gerzon, author and President of Mediators Foundation, as he shares with us why the engine of democracy is breaking down, and what he believes we could do to fix it. 

    Listen Here

    In a powerful conversation, Mark sheds light on the splendor of our complexity, highlighting that no American can be summed up as simply red or blue. He explains our desperate need to get outside our comfort zone and learn from people who are different than we are. 

    The Purple Podcast Playlist

    These podcasts explore what it means to be an engaged citizen in a democracy and combine professional and academic expertise with boots-on-the-ground work happening in communities across the country.

    Click the links to open the episodes or search for these shows in your favorite podcast app. If you are brand new to podcasts, this article explains how to find them on any device. Happy listening!

  • The 2020 Election Is Already Stressing People Out, Data Shows

    In a recent article published in HuffPost, over half of the country is already stressed out about the 2020 elections. Thankfully, HuffPo published a few simple tricks to reduce your anxiety in the run-up between now and next November.

    Read the stats and their survival tips here:

    The 2020 Election Is Already Stressing People Out, Data Shows