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November 3rd, 2023

Schools of Democracy: American Federalism and Civic Education Workshop

A FIP & CTLI Event


November 3rd, 2023


Federalism has often been regarded as a key ingredient in the formation of good citizenship in the United States.  As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor once observed, the American division of vertical powers “enhances the opportunity of all citizens to participate in representative government [which] is a cornerstone of American democracy.” This sentiment is rooted deeply in American political thought and history. It springs from the hopes of the Anti-Federalists, who viewed the small republic as a “school of citizenship as much as a scheme of government.” And it was a key part of the Federalist hopes for a new “compound republic,” which allowed for a compromise between the advantages of a large extended republic and the survival of distinct political communities, where citizens would conduct their politics, deliberate on national policy, and learn to practice “democratic citizenship." Over the course of American history, this way of thinking about the virtues of federalism has endured, although it faces new challenges. Do these hopes for federalism as a “school of citizenship” hold up today?

This workshop invites scholars from a range of disciplines to analyze and discuss a range of related questions, including but not limited to:


  • What is the role of the national government in providing a national vision for civic education?

  • What are states doing to promote civic education, and what are the advantages or disadvantages of strengthening state and local institutions from a civic education perspective?

  • What are the dangers of nationalization and centralization for civil society in America?

  • Is there any evidence that federal systems fare better than centralized unitary states in various measures of civic health?


Essays will be published in a forthcoming volume titled "Schools of Democracy: Federalism and Civic Education." The edited volume will provide a fresh analysis of the continuing relevance of American federalism in promoting and maintaining a civic culture in the United States.



  1. "The American State Constitutional Tradition and the Moral Virtue of the Citizenry" (John Dinan)

  2. "Tocqueville as Civic Educator" (Sanford Kessler)

  3. "Enhancing Civic Education: The Dynamic Role of the Courts in Our Federal System" (Michael A. Rebell)

  4. "Towards Making Civics Education a State Priority in Public Schools" (Kenneth R. Wong)

  5. "The Nexus of Federalism and Civic Education" (Ann O'M. Bowman)

  6. "Schools of Citizenship: Why Federalism Matters for Civic Education" (Andy S. Bibby)

  7. "Centering Federalism in American Civic Education" (John Kincaid)


  • Conference Welcome: 8:45-9:00

  • Session 1: 9:00-10:40

    • Troy Smith​, Brigham Young University - Hawaii

    • Christina Bambrick, University of Notre Dame

    • Robert Burton, Utah Valley University

    • Sandy Kessler, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

  • Session 2: 11:00-12:40

    • Andrew Bibby​, Utah Valley University

    • Michael Rebell, Columbia University

    • Kenneth Wong, Brown University

    • Ann Bowman, Texas A&M University

  • Lunch Break: 12:40-1:40

  • Session 3: 1:40-3:00

    • George Thomas​, Claremont McKenna College

    • Josh Dunn, University of Tennesse - Knoxville

    • John Dinan, Wake Forest University

  • Closing Remarks: 3:00-3:15


Videos of our previous conferences are available to view at the link below.

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