American Identity Renewed: An Educational Agenda for the 21st Century

Conference Date: 
June 5, 2010

The Stanford Center on Adolescence convened a meeting in New York City to discuss the crucial educational goal of promoting positive civic purpose among today's young. Speakers included ANDREW DELBANCO from Columbia University, University of Chicago's MARGARET BEALE SPENCER, the EastWest Institute's OS GUINNESS, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching's WILLIAM SULLIVAN, Catholic University of America's JAMES YOUNISS, and JACQUES BENNINGA from the Bonner Center for Character Education and Citizenship.

There were three main sessions, each led by two speakers. The first session addressed American identity - what does it mean to be American and how do young people understand what it means to be American (particularly in terms of foundational values such as liberty, opportunity, individualism)? The second session examined the concept of "sacred nation" in contemporary terms - is there still a notion of respecting the dignity of all humans in American society, and devotion to the common good? The third session explored the state of E Pluribus Unum today - is the divisiveness in American society and politics inevitable, and in that light, what is the role of schools in educating young people to be American citizens? The concluding discussion was focused on how to give shape to new ways of educating young people for American citizenship. A published report of the proceedings is planned. The event was sponsored by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.