Trust for Representative Democracy - a Civic Education Initiative

Article excerpt

The National Conference of State Legislatures and lawmakers across the nation are joining together to launch a bold new civic education initiative: the Trust for Representative Democracy. Based on the ideas and fundamental principles set forth by the framers of the Constitution, the Trust for Representative Democracy is designed to engage young people and build their understanding and support for America's democratic institutions and counter the recent heightened cynicism and distrust of the legislative process. It will benefit citizens of all ages who aspire to promote the free exchange of ideas, confront and solve the critical issues of our time, and help make our nation a better place in which to live.

Several programs currently comprise the Trust for Representative Democracy, and planning for each is already under way. Bringing these activities into classrooms, training centers and communities throughout the United States will take the dedicated efforts of many -- and generous sponsorships from farsighted corporate, foundation and organization leaders, as well as individuals across the country. With adequate funding, these efforts will extend beyond the planning and pilot stages and will soon begin to instill the values of representative democracy, clarify the democratic process and encourage Americans to play a responsible role in their government. The programs include:

1. A New Public Perspective on Representative Democracy

NCSL is launching this groundbreaking, long-term project, co-sponsored by the American Political Science Association, the Center for Civic Education and the Center for Ethics in Government and Advocacy, to promote civic education about representative democracy and the roles and responsibilities of legislators through the use of creative training and technology. A new guide to the legislative process, written by four political scientists, has been designed to counter public cynicism and distrust of legislative institutions. This text will serve as the basis for a comprehensive curriculum on representative democracy. The new curriculum will feature:

* Exercises, Internet resources and active learning modules for students and citizens of all ages.

* Teacher training programs on new perspectives in representative democracy.

* Multimedia simulations and games that place citizens in the shoes of legislators.

* A new video on American legislatures for general distribution.

* Guidelines for creating state legislative Web pages for children that interest and engage kids.

* Resource materials for capitol tour guides and civic education programs.

The guide and basic ideas underlying the curriculum have already been developed and are ready to be set in place. Support for the project will ensure the development of multimedia resources, secure funds to establish networks among university institutes of government, train teachers, and bring the curriculum to schools and organizations around the country.

2. America's Legislators Back to School Day

In the fall of each year, America's Legislators Back to School Day gives young people an opportunity to meet personally with their elected state lawmakers. NCSL seeks to expand America's Legislators Back to School Day to all 50 states.

This day offers a unique opportunity for legislators and students to exchange ideas and explore legislative concepts face to face. In their visits to local schools, legislators will learn firsthand what young people are thinking and how they feel about issues that affect their lives. Lawmakers can answer questions and take students' input back to their legislatures. …