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United We Stand: Charter School Educators Offer Competing Perspectives on Educating for Citizenship

by Alan Gottlieb, with Foreword by Terry Ryan


“Good citizenship is when effective citizens do simple but powerful things on a daily basis that keeps our country strong and free.” – Benjamin Franklin

As a Boise-based education nonprofit committed to improving opportunities for Idaho’s families and young people Bluum cares deeply about what is taught in our schools, and how it is taught. There is great debate and much written recently on education and what our children should be taught about American history, American government and what it means to be a responsible citizen in 21st century America. This conversation, like much else in American society, is hotly debated and polarizing. See the New York Times’ 1619 Project and the 1776 Report, created by the President’s Advisory Commission, for evidence of the divide.

In 2020, Bluum convened a virtual conversation in Idaho with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Michael J. Petrilli and Chester E. Finn, Jr. to discuss their book of essays entitled How to Educate an American.

We believe teaching our young people to become responsible and engaged citizens is a critical, if not the critical, role for schools and education in America. Yet, as a nation, we are failing to do the job. As reported in How to Educate an American “more than a third of Americans surveyed by the Annenberg Center for Public Policy in September 2017 failed to name a single First Amendment freedom. Only 26 percent could name all three branches of government; 33 percent couldn’t name any branch.”

To better understand the opportunities and challenges of teaching history and civics in our politically charged times, and to highlight schools that are doing the work well, we commissioned veteran education journalist Alan Gottlieb to profile four charter school networks actively engaged in the battle to educate and develop American citizens. These schools have different approaches, and they offer a diversity of viewpoints. But, through this we hope there is in fact a better understanding of truth that emerges.

Bluum is privileged to give voice to the work that the charter school networks Democracy Prep, Great Hearts, Success Academy, and the Barney Charter School Initiative are doing, as Franklin encouraged, “on a daily basis” to keep “our country strong and free.”

Terry Ryan, CEO

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Listen to an interview with Alan Gottlieb and Terry Ryan here.

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