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Regardless of their point of view, everyone agrees: Civics education is in crisis in America. Kevin Vance hopes an innovative new program at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, can start to change that.
In collaboration with the Bill of Rights Institute, the college’s Center for Constitutional Liberty helped 20 high school teachers learn the roles that founding documents play in issues America faces today and how to share that knowledge with students.
In an authentic train the trainer format, the two-day program on Benedictine’s campus helped teachers and students engage in conversation with black and other disenfranchised Americans who were working to realize the Declaration of Independence’s promises of liberty and equality throughout the course of the nation’s history.
As seasoned educators, the participants were invited to model and explore the Socratic teaching method, which promotes asking open-ended questions to stimulate critical thinking rather than just providing information. The conversation among attendees fostered further discussion about practical applications for their classrooms.
The program was sponsored by the Center for Constitutional Liberty at Benedictine College. “Even with the best teachers in the educational system, teacher burnout is a big problem,” said Dr. Kevin Vance, Director of the Center for Constitutional Liberty. “The kind of content we were sharing gave them an opportunity to breathe new life into their curricula.”
In addition to having their registration and lodging expenses covered, participants received a bound selection of primary sources, meals and a stipend to help with travel costs.
Benedictine College established the Center for Constitutional Liberty as part of its Transforming Culture in America strategic plan. The Center’s mission is to “renew and advance understanding of the founding principles of the United States of America so that our nation’s unique experiment in self-government will inspire, inform and direct new generations of Americans.” This summer programming for teachers is a key strategy of the center to improve the quality of K-12 civics education in the region.
Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is honored to have been named in the Top 10 in the Midwest of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the best private college in Kansas by The Wall Street Journal, and one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. Benedictine College has a mission to transform culture in America by educating men and women within a community of faith and scholarship. For more information visit www.benedictine.edu.