Teaching America’s Founding Principles

The Jack Miller Center for Teaching America’s Founding Principles and History was a response to the low level of civics knowledge among American undergraduates. Created in 2007, the center identifies academics who are expert or promising teachers of Western political philosophy and America’s history and founding principles, and assists them—offering professional development, two-week seminars, research fellowships, lectures and special events, and other resources for scholars at all career levels, from professors to post-docs to graduate students. It operates job boards to connect proven scholars to departmental openings at top universities.

The center has also funded the establishment of 58 dedicated on-campus institutes where excellent research and teaching can gain a wider audience. These have included the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts and Ideas at the University of Texas at Austin, the Center for the Study of Representative Institutions at Yale, the American Democracy Forum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Graduate Program in Constitutional Studies at the University of Notre Dame, and the Benjamin Franklin Project at MIT.

In 2016, the center launched its Founding Civics initiative to begin civics education at the high-school level. The model, which debuted in Chicago, has expanded to New York City, Virginia, Wisconsin, Philadelphia, and Florida. “Taught by JMC faculty partners, programs are conducted with area institutions and align to regional teacher incentives and state and local civics requirements,” the center explains.

The Jack Miller Center is funded by donations from Jack Miller (an entrepreneur who created an office-supply company that became a core of the Staples company), along with other individuals, businesses, and foundations. JMC and its partners have committed more than $157 million since its incorporation in 2007. With more than 900 faculty partners on hundreds of college campuses, and rapid expansion continuing, the Jack Miller Center has emerged as the leader in promoting high-quality civics education at the collegiate and graduate levels.

See “2007—Teaching America’s History and Founding Principles” in the list of Major Achievements in Education of The Almanac of American Philanthropy for this and other donor accomplishments in schooling.