IU center to host national conference on civic literacy

ExhibitionINDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana University Center for Civic Literacy, a research center at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, has announced that its second annual conference will take place Aug. 22 to 24 at the Crowne Plaza Union Station in Indianapolis. The public is invited to attend.

“The data is depressing,” said Sheila Kennedy, director of the Center for Civic Literacy and professor of law and public policy at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI, which houses the center. “Only 36 percent of Americans can name the three branches of government. Only 21 percent of high school seniors can list two privileges that United States citizens have that noncitizens don’t. Fewer than a quarter of the nation’s 12th-graders are proficient in civics. How can uninformed people make the informed decisions that are critical in our society? That is what the Center for Civic Literacy addresses, and what we will discuss at our conference.”

The Center for Civic Literacy pursues an aggressive research agenda to identify and address the causes and civic consequences of Americans’ low levels of constitutional, economic and scientific knowledge. It hosts a website and blog, and publishes a quarterly newsletter and an online, peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal.

The theme of this year’s conference, held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Center’s National Advisory Committee, is “Connecting the Dots: The Impact of Civic Literacy Gaps on Democracy, the Economy and Society, and Charting a Path Forward.”

The program will open with a welcome from former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Theodore Boehm, who chairs the center’s National Advisory Committee, and will include addresses from Ted McConnell, executive director of the Civic Mission of Schools Campaign; David Schultz, professor of political science at Hamline University; Dallas Dishman, executive director of the Geffen Foundation; and Kim McLaurin, director of the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project, among others.

Call for submissions: The Journal of Civic Literacy

America’s low levels of civic knowledge have been repeatedly documented. The Journal of Civic Literacy is a project of the Center for Civic Literacy at IUPUI. It is a new open-access, online interdisciplinary journal focused upon publishing high-quality, peer-reviewed articles on issues of American civic literacy, defined as that level of public knowledge necessary for informed civic participation.

Civic literacy for our purposes encompasses an acquaintance with:

  • American history, both episodic and intellectual;
  • An understanding of the nation’s constituent documents, their roots and their subsequent amendment and interpretation, and;
  • Sufficient familiarity with and comprehension of basic economic, scientific and policy terminology to permit the formation of reasonably informed opinions on matters of policy disputation.

We are interested in articles addressing:

  • The causes and consequences of low levels of literacy,
  • The role of public education, the comparative efficacy of available curricula and programs (what is working? why and how?),
  • Connections between the current media environment and deficient civic understandings,
  • The role of civic literacy in holding public servants accountable for ethical and trustworthy public service, and
  • Theoretical submissions that consider the role of civic knowledge in the multiple arenas of our common American life.

The Journal’s editorial staff recognizes that practitioners, community members, engaged citizens and others add much value to the ongoing conversation around these issues. Accordingly, in addition to the research articles that will form the basis of each issue, we will welcome contributions to a separate section, the Citizenship Conversation, in which we hope to highlight contributions from government figures, lawyers, political actors, nonprofit administrators and board members, schoolteachers and others concerned about the effects of our civic deficit. Those contributions can take the form of opinion pieces, “best practices” reports, reviews of pertinent books, descriptions of programs and other essays consistent with the Journal’s focus.

The journal will initially be published twice a year by the Center for Civic Literacy at IUPUI. Its editorial board includes scholars representing a wide range of disciplines: political science, public administration, education, science, religious studies and business.

Additional information about the Journal and the submission process can be accessed at on the journal’s website. Questions about this Call for Papers or the Journal of Civic Literacy should be directed to Sheila Kennedy (shekenne@iupui.edu) or jcivlit@iupui.edu.