The following was presented as part of a session at Philanthropy Roundtable’s Annual Meeting in October 2022.
As Benjamin Franklin left the Constitutional Convention of 1787, having signed his name to the document, a woman asked him what kind of government he and his colleagues had decided on. He responded with a challenge: “A republic, if you can keep it.” These words were meant as a call to action for all future Americans to preserve our founding history and values throughout generations.
In a Big Idea talk at the Roundtable’s Annual Meeting, Daniels Fund President and CEO Hanna Skandera, also a Roundtable board member, revealed how America has waned in this challenge to teach even basic civics knowledge in our schools and communities today. Her talk was an appeal to the philanthropic sector to revitalize civics education in our country, highlighted by joining the approach the Daniels Fund is taking to ensure future generations are well versed on the topic.
Skandera said schools no longer deliver the “basics” on important subjects like civics. “Schools have become theater for adult culture wars, completely missing the opportunity and the nuance of our constitutional order,” she said. “Our solution to this crisis will not and cannot come solely through our schools. … The bottom line is we’ve got to look inside and outside the four walls of our schools if we’re going to see the change we desperately need.”
The Daniels Fund’s approach to solving the civics crisis, in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, is based on a collective effort by citizens to hold “civics bees” for students, an initiative that extends beyond schools and into communities. Much like a spelling bee, a civics bee gives students the opportunity to be challenged and tested on our nation’s history. The goal is to awaken the possibility that civics engagement can make this country a better place.
Civics bees live not within schools, but with local chambers of commerce, said Skandera, places that “are locally driven” and “reflect the community that they live in.”
The Daniels Fund helped host five national civics bees this year across the country. According to Skandera, hundreds of students participated, and communities enthusiastically offered local sponsorships and prizes. Skandera says students who participated told bee organizers they had not received that civics content at school and they were excited to learn it.
“This is the American way of doing things. Not relying on government to solve or rescue us but relying on individuals to come together, to form their own bee, their own association, to actually move the needle on the things they truly care about,” she said.
In closing, Skandera challenged the audience to promote our nation’s civic health through ideas like the civics bee, which helps students rally around – and celebrate – what it means to be an American.
Check out other Annual Meeting videos at the links below.
Ken Griffin Receives 2022 Simon-DeVos Prize for Philanthropic Leadership and Discusses Approach to Charitable Giving
Leaders Discuss Future of Conservative Movement at Philanthropy Roundtable’s 2022 Annual Meeting
Elise Westhoff Gives Welcome Address at Philanthropy Roundtable 2022 Annual Meeting
How Philanthropy Can Defend American Values and Support Smart Foreign Policy