You can’t fix what you don’t understand with Shawn Healy

Shawn Healy
Senior Director, Policy and Advocacy // iCivics

Moderate Party
Moderate Party
You can't fix what you don't understand with Shawn Healy

When it comes to government and politics — it is easy to be cynical. The phrase “politicians are corrupt” gets tossed around so casually that it’s become cliche. The American people’s cynicism toward it’s government shows up in polls all the time. According to a Pew Research poll, 6/10 Americans aren’t happy with how democracy is working in the United States and 85% think the country needs major changes or a complete reform. But how do we change a system we don’t understand? While our cynicism toward government grows our ability to understand our government continues to diminish. On this week’s episode of Moderate Party, Hillari Lombard and Shawn Healy discuss the collapse of civic education, the impact on democracy, and how we talk about our country in such polarized times.

[00:00:00] Debbie Downer SNL Skit: against that. Debbie down there.

[00:00:15] Hillari Lombard: Have you guys seen that? Debbie Downer, SNL skit? It’s one of the older ones. The setup for the skit is very relatable. You’re in a social situation that you can’t leave like a wedding or a family gathering. But you’re making the best of it, right? I mean, you’re just making some small talk, just trying to pass the time.

[00:00:33] And you say something like, man, the traffic was crazy. And then you get smacked with something like,

[00:00:39] Debbie Downer SNL Skit: Nothing. Compared to the disaster, the Chinese are going through.

[00:00:45] Hillari Lombard: or you say, yeah, I actually would like a piece of cake and boom.

[00:00:50] It’s funny and obviously relatable. I think that [00:01:00] everybody has run into the brick wall of a Debbie Downer, but when it comes to government politics or I mean the state of our country, I worry that we’re all kind of becoming the Debbie Downer. So many people have this negative perception of government.


[00:01:16] CNN: A majority of Americans see their government is corrupt and rigged against them. Nearly half of Americans say they feel more and more like a stranger in their own country

[00:01:24] And associated gfk poll found that only 13% of americans approve of congress

[00:01:29] Fox News: Many Americans are losing faith in the military,

[00:01:32] NBC NEWS: a series of decisions from its last term. Most notably the one to overturn Roe V. Wade sent public approval of the court to its lowest rating ever. According to NBC news, polling,

[00:01:42] CNN: and look at this nearly three in 10 Americans overall agree. It may be necessary at some point soon for citizens to take up arms against the government.


[00:01:51] Hillari Lombard: It’s actually like cliche at this point to say our system is broken, or politicians are. You hear it so often, it’s really stopped being interesting [00:02:00] pew conducted a poll in which six out of 10 Americans said that they weren’t satisfied with how democracy was working in America. That’s not a political party that you don’t belong to. It’s not an idea that you disagree with or a politician that you don’t like. It’s our literal system of government.

[00:02:14] Our most fundamental idea, the idea at the core of this country,

[00:02:18] And six and 10 Americans think that it’s not.

[00:02:20] And while we’re talking about depressing stats, consider that 85% of Americans think the US political system needs major changes or needs to be completely reformed. Consider if you saw that on the review for a restaurant that you were considering going to like six and 10 people say that this place sucks, are you gonna go? No. And I mean those stats concern me, right? They make me sad. But the one that really gets me. The Debbie Downer death punch, is that 58% of Americans don’t think that the system can change.

[00:02:48] We don’t believe in ourselves. We don’t believe in each other, . It really bothers me. I think It’s like a cancer and it infects all of us, right? This idea that nothing can change, that [00:03:00] there’s nothing we can do that nothing will ever get.

[00:03:02] That idea. It’s so contagious and it’s deadly. Maybe not in the life of an individual 70 or 80 years, but in the life of a nation, and in order to treat an infection, you need to diagnose it. But how do we diagnose cynicism? How do we diagnose the sense of helplessness of victimhood? Where does it come from?

[00:03:22] You can point to some historical factors, Vietnam watergate assassination of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and I mean even Robert Kennedy. These things sort of accelerate the collapse of institutional trust, and there are technology factors, right? The rise of the internet, social media, misinformation, but I think that there might be something more fundamental, more of a root cause. I’m not sure that we understand our system or how it works.

[00:03:49] I know a lot of really smart, hardworking, and capable people that couldn’t tell you the structure of their state legislature, let alone name their representative. ask yourself do you know what a city manager does [00:04:00]compared to the mayor or the mayor compared to city?

[00:04:02] What does a comptroller do? What about a treasurer who oversees your elections? How do they work? I think that the electoral college is a great example of this because 61% of Americans support abolishing it. But I would guess that a lot less can tell you how it actually works. And if we can’t understand our system, we’re more likely to see ourselves outside of it, to feel separate from it, to believe that we can’t impact it, let alone change it, and we’re more likely to believe lies about it. We can’t treat an infection that we can’t diagnose, and you can’t fix a system that you don’t understand.

[00:04:36] That’s why I wanted to talk to Sean Healy.

[00:04:38] Sean is the Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy AT IS Civics. He leads their state and federal policy and advocacy work through the Civics Now Coalition. He oversees civic education campaigns in several states and plays an active role in recruiting supporters to fund policy advocacy and implementation efforts nationwide.

[00:04:57] He’s also a big sports guy.[00:05:00]

[00:05:00] As a reminder, my inbox is always open. So if you guys have thoughts on this episode, an idea for a future episode, a guest suggestion, or you just wanna chat, you can always email me at talk moderate party

[00:05:13] I’m Hillary Lumbard and this is Moderate party.


[00:05:23] Hillari Lombard: Sean, thank you so much for being a guest on Moderate Party. How are you?

[00:05:26] Shawn Healy: I’m Well, it’s good to be here.

[00:05:28] Hillari Lombard: Today we’re gonna be talking about civic education, civic engagement, and democracy at large. But before we do, can you tell me a little bit about your background and what kind of led you to this field?

[00:05:40] Shawn Healy: Sure. So I, I started my career as a high school civics teacher. And, uh, had had the opportunity to teach us really innovative class where students were simulated at the legislative process, not just for a couple days, but for the whole semester. So it was called the legislative semester. And, uh, I was really inspired to take [00:06:00] that kind of statewide.

[00:06:01] I was new to Illinois at the time, and the question I posed my mentor is, why does every student in Illinois not. This experience. And he pointed to me and he said, Sean, that that’s your problem to solve. So, um, I turned to, to advocacy and did a lot of work at, at the state level to strengthen civic education . And, uh, since, you know, the last couple years made this leap to eye civics to, to do some of this work at the national level. So, long story short, I, I’ve been, uh, in the civic space. My whole professional career, I actually still teach at the college level. I teach public policy, which is still kind of a, a fancy way of saying civics, at the higher ed level. And the through line is this belief that if young people have the opportunity to have a high quality civic learning experience really throughout their K-12 trajectory.

[00:06:50] They’re gonna be informed in effective participants in our constitutional democracy throughout their life. I’ve seen anecdotal evidence of that. Um, I’m a [00:07:00] political scientist who’s researched it, so there’s an empirical case for this that I’m, I’m sure we’ll get to. But that is really the through, through line that young people, if empowered can make a fundamental difference in our, in our democracy.

[00:07:11] Hillari Lombard: When we talk about civic education, are we saying like, kids need to watch Schoolhouse Rock every day, or

[00:07:16] Shawn Healy: Yeah. So, there’s a, I would say, a fierce debate raging about what it means when we talk about civic education. And I’m gonna kind of embrace a bit of a, maybe it’s appropriate for a moderate party podcast, uh, to embrace kind of a more inclusive. Approach to civic education. So let me speak, uh, to, to some of the debates.

[00:07:38] There’s this, grapple between civic knowledge. So hey, we need to know a bunch, bunch about the constitution and the three branches. Versus experience, right? That hey, students learn about democracy by practicing it. I would say that’s a false choice. That they’re, they’re both kind of mutually reinforcing.

[00:07:58] We don’t want people, , to [00:08:00] engage in our democracy and kind of blind way, right? They, they should have a general sense of what they’re doing and what institutions do what and federalism. But at the same time you know, just reading a bunch of books and memorizing a bunch of materials, kind of has you sitting on the sidelines.

[00:08:16] And democracy is a, a, a context sport, right? It’s participatory. So we need to do both of those things. And then there’s, there’s a real, um, there’s a real contest. I would also say over. What we teach right, in terms of content. And it’s true that, you know, civic education from its very early premise in this country was an attempt to make people, Americans, right?

[00:08:41] Was an attempt, uh, to, to develop some type of attachment to our institution, to our founding document. I think there’s real value in that, and that’s, that’s a perspective that’s often put forth by, by our friends on the right. Um, our friends on the left are more, [00:09:00] uh, apt to put forward a critique of our history, right.

[00:09:04] A critique of our institutions. Uh, and I think there’s something to be said about that too, because the beauty I would say of our system is, The ability to affect change to, to, uh, live up to the words of, of, of Lincoln and Jefferson, to, to, uh, and frankly, the framers of our constitution, to, to build a more perfect union.

[00:09:27] So a civic education should also equip young people. To make our country better, right. Through institutions. That’s a long winded response to your question. But ultimately, we’re trying to build, uh, civic knowledge among students, not just about Washington, but frankly about state and local government, which is what most of the laws that impact us on a daily basis.

[00:09:47] That’s, that’s where they derive. It’s about developing civic skills. So how can we have a conversation across difference, for example, uh, that is a real civic skill that I think is transferable to, to other environments. [00:10:00] And then this notion of dispositions, which just to unpack that a little bit, a sense that I can make a difference if I engage in our democracy and that institutions will be responsive to me.

[00:10:12] Hillari Lombard: How do you think that you teach civic education in our current polarized moment?

[00:10:16] Shawn Healy: Yeah. Well, it’s, it’s, it’s difficult, right? Uh, I, I started teaching, uh, this in the, the late nineties, which, which, uh, at the time didn’t seem like a, a kinder, gentler time, but, but it, it sure does now. Right? Um, so that, that was a. Polarized time too, as I was student teaching, they were impeaching Bill Clinton, right?

[00:10:35] So, uh, it wasn’t, uh, maybe the he helicon days that, that we think of it as. But yeah, there’s certainly evidence that, uh, political polarization has increased, uh, both the elite level, um, and at the mass level. And it makes it more d. To do this work. I would, I would also suggest it makes it more important.

[00:10:55] So how do you do it? Um, I, I, I think it’s one, you know, there’s a [00:11:00] good debate about teachers approach, uh, to this. There’s, I, I think a false debate going on that, uh, there’s this massive effort to indoctrinate students. Uh, the research really doesn’t bear that out, but it is critical that we engage students in structured conversations.

[00:11:16] About controversial issues and that we make space for students, frankly, to disagree about these issues and frankly to have structured conversations about them. Uh, ultimately, yeah, we love consensus, but sometimes, uh, it’s, it’s okay to dis agree to disagree and then also to understand that our system, uh, our institutions, Really require compromise right to effect change.

[00:11:43] So how can we get to that place? So yeah, I would say talk a lot about through wines here, but a through wine in my career is engaging students in conversations about current and controversial issues. It brings civics to life. And we even know some of my expertise is in [00:12:00] studying test scores, which isn’t all that exciting.

[00:12:02] I know. But things I’ve looked at is like, what? What moves student test scores when we measure their civic knowledge? And actually the, one of the most powerful things we can do is engage them in conversations about current issues. And the striking thing about that is the test doesn’t measure current events knowledge.

[00:12:17] It can’t, right. These are standardized tests. So it speaks to the power of, of those conversations. And then I think it, I think it’s also. Um, once again, the experiential side of this. So can we simulate democratic processes like a legislature, uh, like a courtroom? Can we, uh, sim, can we do, do mock elections?

[00:12:36] We’re on the verge of the midterm elections here. Of course. Uh, elections are teachable moments. Uh, can we embrace that in the classroom? There’s a lot to be said about, uh, experiential learning, like service learning. So connect. Community service to back to what students are studying in the classroom. Um, so, so that kind of mix between the content, uh, and the more kind of student centered [00:13:00] practices are what constitute an effective civics.

[00:13:04] Hillari Lombard: There’s a quote that I really like politics is the forming of a soul, or something like that. And I think that civics, it does occupy a strange space, or it’s like it teaches us to. I mean, love our country, but also participate in our country and like care for each other. And I don’t think that there’s another class in school that captures that space.

[00:13:29] Shawn Healy: Right, right. And you know, there, there’s a lot of talk now in, in schools about, uh, the so-called soft skills or, or social and emotional learning, which is, which is woven kind of throughout the curriculum and frankly, in a way a school itself functions. And I, I think you’re right, there’s not another dedicated class.

[00:13:48] I think it’s also really important as we talk about young people in their civic development to talk about how a school function. That a school, in theory, most of our students, but 90% nationally, still go to public schools. [00:14:00] And that, that a school, uh, should function democratically, right? That students should have a voice, uh, in, in, in the functioning of that school.

[00:14:09] Uh, and that, frankly, Uh, schools teach lessons about how they operate in democracy or frankly, too often, uh, in, in more, a more authoritarian fashion, right? So, uh, I think you’re right in terms of the formal curriculum, but there’s this informal curriculum that’s part of K12 education that I think we should also pay a lot of attention, uh, to as, as we develop citizens.

[00:14:32] Hillari Lombard: How do you mesh that with like what we saw at NYU with students forming a petition to have a professor fired? I mean, on the one hand that’s very democratic. Um, and on the other, I don’t think that’s good for us either. If you can just get rid of people that disagree with.

[00:14:49] Shawn Healy: So I’m not, I’m not familiar with the facts of that specific case. Um, but I have looked into this issue before, right? So it’s this issue of, uh, so-called cancel culture, uh, [00:15:00] in higher education has yeah. Bubbled up for at least the last decade, uh, if not longer in our country. And a lot of, a lot of the attacks yeah.

[00:15:09] Come from students with a more progressive bearing. And, and it’s often, uh, they’re concerned about, uh, certain right wing or, or conserv. Speakers or professors. Um, and when I looked into this issue in a previous position, uh, what, what I concluded was that it was actually our failure to develop an appreciation for the First Amendment, uh, specifically.

[00:15:34] And, and what, what, what the first amendment, uh, means, right? The, the meaning of, of those five freedoms. And it was our failure to do it in a K-12 context because frankly, by the time, uh, students got to higher ed, it was too late. Many of them weren’t majoring in subjects where they’re even relevant classes, right?

[00:15:51] If you’re studying to be an engineer, you’re probably not taking a, a political science class. Uh, so to develop, uh, an appreciation. [00:16:00] The First Amendment and what that means, you know, it, it really is in the, the words of, uh, former Justice Al Wende Holmes, uh, freedom for the thought we hate, right?

[00:16:08] And that, uh, there is something about higher education, um, where, where that marketplace of ideas should reign, right?

[00:16:17] And, uh, yeah, I think, I think there are illiberal tendencies, once again, an appropriate place to have this conversation on a, on a moderate party podcast. I, I would suggest there are illiberal tendencies. On the extremes on both sides of the political spectrum. And that is, that is a genuine threat to democracy, that dissent is critical to a democracy and uh, we should not shut it down.

[00:16:40] Uh, the answer to speech we don’t like is more speech.

[00:16:45] Hillari Lombard: Right, if you really believe in what you’re saying, it should stand up to an opposing viewpoint.

[00:16:50] Shawn Healy: That’s right. That’s right.

[00:16:53] Hillari Lombard: So Sean, what kind of civic education did you have in school? Like I’m curious if your career is influenced by great [00:17:00]civic education or very poor civic education.

[00:17:03] Shawn Healy: Yeah, I would say it’s kind of, kind of in the middle, right? Um, so yeah, it’s, it’s fascinating. People often ask me like, what the impetus for, uh, this career trajectory has been. And I was just, as a young person, very influenced or very interested in, in politics, very passionate about politics. And once again, I wasn’t particularly ideological.

[00:17:27] I just thought politics itself. Was fascinating and I attribute that influence to my, my grandparents, um, who were, were interested in politics also consumed a lot of news. Um, a lot of it was TV news, but we also, you know, we had two newspapers. I grew up in Milwaukee, wait a morning and afternoon paper, back then and those are, are big factors, right?

[00:17:46] Uh, family, kind of a rich information, rich environment, that, that influenced my trajectory. And then the other piece, That I think is under Appreci. Is extracurricular activities. And [00:18:00] once again, I wasn’t in civics oriented extracurriculars. I was a jock, right? Um, I was the, I was the, I was the captain of the football team and I was also kind of a quiet guy and that forced me to, to be more vocal and to develop, uh, into a leader.

[00:18:15] Um, so that’s a long way of saying like, it, it doesn’t all have to happen in the context of a civics class. There are several factors that influence young people’s civic development. Um, I did not have a, a, a specific class in civics. Right. I, I grew up in Wisconsin, as I said, and the state still does not have a, a required civics class, right?

[00:18:35] So I had definitely had good social studies classes. I learned a lot. I was interested in those classes. Um, but it, but it wasn’t. I would, I would say it wasn’t, wasn’t the primary, uh, reason, uh, that it, that I’m at where I am today. Um, but those, those other influences are, are, are really important and, and we need to account for those.

[00:18:54] Hillari Lombard: The influence from your grandparents is interesting because I don’t think that my parents would ever describe [00:19:00]themselves. Civically minded. But when I look back, they definitely were like, we talked about politics at dinner, we watched the debates and like I knew that that’s something that you should do.

[00:19:12] And then, so I had an interest in it when it came about in school. Um, but as far as formal civic education, at least in Nevada, it’s very sporadic. Like we would learn about it in primary school with schoolhouse. I had a great social studies teacher in middle school, and then it went away until my senior year of high school when I took government.

[00:19:33] But I will say like that government class is the only class where we were encouraged to debate each other, and it was my favorite class in high school, but also one of the most challenging for that reason.

[00:19:43] Shawn Healy: 1 kind of thing to celebrate, uh, your home state just last year strengthened. Uh, its, its civics content requirements and they’re also adopting, uh, something called a civic seal, which, uh, will appear on students’ diplomas and recognize not just excellence and excellence in [00:20:00] civic coursework, but project based.

[00:20:02] Aligned with civic education and Nevada is one of eight states that has one of these seals. And I, I should say I neglected to this in my background story, but. It’s really critical that we have standalone courses in civic education because all of us are not afforded that experience of a rich, uh, home environment where our parents are, are engaged.

[00:20:25] Uh, we’re not, uh, necessarily afforded a rich information environment. There’s an organization at Tufts University called Circle. They talk about civic deserts, and there are civic deserts all over the country where there’s not even a newspaper, uh, that’s covering local affairs. Right. Um, so that civics class is, is really critical.

[00:20:44] There are huge equity issues, right, in terms of who gets a good civic education. So students of color are less likely to get a good civic education than white students. Lower income students, less likely students who are non-English proficient, you can go down the list. Right. [00:21:00] Um, so, so that kind of baseline having, we should have a course in civics and middle school.

[00:21:05] We recommend a semester in middle school. We recommend a full year in high school. Only six states are doing a full year. Um, so we have a long way to go, but that, that is critical, particularly making sure that all of us have access to at least a baseline civic education in this country.

[00:21:20] Hillari Lombard: Civic deserts is an interesting concept because we’ve seen a collapse in labor unions and people are going to church much less than we were before. And it kind of leaves us without a community forum to be good civic citizens.

[00:21:36] How do you think that we recreate that?

[00:21:38] Shawn Healy: Yeah. It’s difficult, right?

[00:21:40] Hillari Lombard: Because it’s not on Reddit or Twitter, right? I mean

[00:21:43] Shawn Healy: Right. No. It’s very difficult. Yes. And so much of our civic wife is online now, but what, what the online community enables is us, for us, for us to find people that are a lot like us. Right? Whereas historically, what you’re talking about in a labor union or in a, a religious, [00:22:00] uh, congregation, uh, There’s more likely to be difference, right.

[00:22:05] Uh, Robert Putnam is a famous political scientist, and he wrote this book 20 years ago called Bowling Alone. Right. And his metaphor was, what does that mean? His metaphor was, and I don’t know if this is still true, but in 2000 it was, uh, that uh, more people are bowling than ever before, but we used to bowl in leagues.

[00:22:25] When we bowl in leagues, uh, we’d grab beer and pizza and we’d talk about what was happening in our community with people that maybe weren’t our best friends. But we call ’em kind of weak ties. And now we’re bowling, but we’re bowling with close friends and family members. We’re not part of leagues anymore.

[00:22:43] He extrapolated that metaphor. You went into labor unions, religious organizations, you can do that broadly across society. And we, we lack these weak ties and weak ties are the various, the very premise of democracy. So yeah, how do we, how do we emulate that? Uh, you know, [00:23:00] I think there are ways to get out of the echo chambers online, right?

[00:23:04] And that, that’s, that’s really critical. I still think there’s something to be said about organizations that meet face to face. They don’t have to be your traditional labor unions or, or, uh, religious organizations. So I, I think it is critical that we’re members of groups that we take, uh, leadership, uh, positions in groups.

[00:23:22] Uh, there are organizations set up, uh, with a very premise of building bridges, right, of facilitating conversations about public issue. Uh, with people who might not necessarily agree with us. And yeah, this, this time we’re living in now, we’re not just polarized at an aggregate level, but we’re polarized locally, right?

[00:23:43] So there, there was this book that came out in 2008 called The Big Sword, and the argument was that we’re, we’re segregating ourselves politically. We might not be doing that intentionally, but by where we choose to live. So we live in a country now that if you’re in an urban environ, Probably your neighbor [00:24:00] and everyone on your block is a Democrat.

[00:24:02] And then we live, uh, in an environment that if you’re in a rural area, uh, almost everyone in your community, 90% of people, 80 to 90% are voting Republican. Uh, and the only rural contested area are the suburbs, right? Those are, those are the coin flips now. Um, so we’ve segregated ourselves to a point, and we know this about basic research.

[00:24:23] Most of us don’t talk about politics. In fact, we’ve been told not to, right? You don’t talk about

[00:24:27] politics or religion in point company, but if we do, if we do, we seek out people who agree with us.

[00:24:33] And what we know about that is it actually amplifies our views. So there’s a lot of head nodding. We come into a conversation with a certain position, we leave it even more polarized.

[00:24:45] Whereas if we have conversations across difference, it actually brings us to the middle. So I would assume an aspiration of the moderate party

[00:24:52] in its

[00:24:52] podcast.

[00:24:53] Hillari Lombard: Of course, um, I think it, it puts a weird amount of pressure on workplaces and schools because I think [00:25:00] that that’s the only place that you have to engage with strangers every day, like where you’re likely to meet somebody that feels differently than you do, though, as we geographically sort ourselves, that becomes less and less likely. I think it puts a lot of pressure on these, these places that I’m not sure they are set up to bear. Do you think that it’s a bad pressure or a positive pressure?

[00:25:25] Shawn Healy: Yeah, I think we could, we could come back to workplaces. I, I, I don’t know that they’re all, that well set up for it. And there is a lot of tension, uh, in workplaces cause I, cause I think it’s partly ideological and I think it’s actually partly generational, right? Which is probably something workplaces always had to deal with.

[00:25:42] Um, but, uh, I, I don’t think workplaces know what to do. I think the traditional notion, and I think this is generational, Work was separate. Right. Uh, that you kind of put your head down. Did the job, uh, was kind of removed from politics. That that may have never been true [00:26:00] in reality. Right. But, but I think people made that distinction.

[00:26:04] And I think we live in a time, it is a really political time. Right. So when the Supreme Court is weighing in on reproductive rights, for example, it’s hard to just like, holy cow, they just overturned a 50 year precedent. Let’s put my head down and, and

[00:26:18] get through this spreadsheet, right? Yeah. Yeah. So, so, and I’m by no means an expert of how to address this in a workplace.

[00:26:25] There’s some work that the Annenberg, uh, foundation is funding. It’s called Civics at work that is, uh, leaning into that, and it’s, it’s a real challenge. I would say schools on the other. Are better equipped to do this, uh, for a few reasons. Um, one, there’s a researcher, she’s now dean of the School of Education at the, the University of Wisconsin, Diana Hess.

[00:26:47] And she, she makes the argument and her research backs this up. That schools are actually, as you mentioned, one of the most, ideologically heterogeneous places will ever occupy in our life. Right?[00:27:00] They’re surprising political heterogeneity in a school setting, even in really blue places and really red places.

[00:27:08] Okay? Uh, the second piece is for most young people, they’re still figuring this out, right? They’re not. Highly committed to an ideological position. They certainly, students obviously have opinions and, uh, in many cases, informed opinions, but they’re still kind of sorting through their political identities, which is a really healthy thing.

[00:27:27] So that’s actually, that’s a, that’s a really good mix from the perspective of an educator, right? You have heterogeneity, you have people still trying to kind of figure this out. They’re maybe not deeply dug in. I’ve certainly had students who are right, but uh, they’re still kind of working through. And then you have at least the potential of a trained educator to facilitate these convers.

[00:27:49] So I actually think it’s a, it’s a fantastic place, uh, to do this. It’s really tough to do that in this environment, right?

[00:27:56] Where, yeah, there is this sense, uh, that there’s, this [00:28:00]ideological agenda in schools to indoctrinate students. I don’t think the empiric the, I’ve looked at this, the empirical evidence doesn’t bear that out.

[00:28:09] Uh, most teachers look a lot like the communities in which they teach politically.

[00:28:13] Hillari Lombard: Right.

[00:28:14] Shawn Healy: Most teachers are actually, uh, education Week. Did a poll on this a few years back, quite moderate, uh, in their views. Uh, teachers look like an ideological bell curve,

[00:28:23] Hillari Lombard: A lot of teachers listen to

[00:28:25] this podcast.

[00:28:26] Shawn Healy: I bet. Yeah. And, and, and then, and then, you know, most teachers, it’s actually a legitimate pedagogical consideration, but most teachers try to, uh, assume a position of neutrality.

[00:28:40] Or objectivity, uh, when you discuss current issue to present. Not just two sides, but, but multiple sides, uh, of an issue to let students, uh, draw their own conclusions about that, which is really responsible. There actually is a pedagogical case to be made as long as teachers are intentional about this, of [00:29:00] disclosing views and, uh, just so long as they make space for students to disagree with them.

[00:29:05] I think that’s a more dangerous position to take, a more fraught position to take, uh, in this political environment. But, uh, actually the, the empirical. Suggest that so long as you’re really intentional about, uh, that decision, uh, that, that you can make an argument kind of on either side of it.

[00:29:22] Hillari Lombard: The Rand Institute did a study where they pulled teachers and asked what they thought the goal of civics education was, and they didn’t say civics, they said

[00:29:30] critical thinking. How does that hit you?

[00:29:34] Shawn Healy: Yeah, well, so, so I, I think they asked, I think they gave teachers a long laundry list and, and that, uh, pulled above everything else. Yeah, I think we’re in a, I think we’re in a, a, a time, uh, and this has been, you know, this challenges is as old time, but, uh, you know, uh, technology has, has, uh, accelerated this to a degree where it almost feels out of [00:30:00] control.

[00:30:01] This and information this and misinformation, is everywhere. And it’s not just, related to to, to our politics, but frankly, scientific debates, right? Frankly, any academic subject, uh, the debates that are happening are happening online and filtering through the good and the bad is critical.

[00:30:18] Um, so I think the notion that we need to develop critical thinkers as it relates to, to our civic, Is is a very legitimate goal, right? Among many. But, um, I think, I think that is one of the, the top challenges that we’re in right now is, um, you know, we used to have debates about evidence, right? And we could agree to disagree.

[00:30:43] When we put forth an evidence based case, uh, but we’re in an era now where many people don’t bring evidence to the table. They make claims that are not supported, uh, by evidence. Uh, sometimes they’re quite persuasive actually.

[00:30:56] Hillari Lombard: Well, they would be if you’re not, weighed down by the burden of facts.[00:31:00]

[00:31:00] Shawn Healy: Right, Right, right, So, so, so yeah. I, I, I, I don’t have that full list of options in front of me of what it, what a, what a good civic education should be, but critical thinking. Yeah. I, I think is something that’s probably uniform across academic subject areas. Yeah. There, there’s this, uh, uh, group outta Stanford.

[00:31:19] They’re called the Stanford History Education Group, and they’ve, they studied what they call critical online literacy, which is in kind of that same bucket as. Media literacy, and you may have seen the headlines on this, Hillary, they’ve, uh, they, they’ve had, uh, Stanford students, um, PhD historians, middle school students, have done this survey with a number of different groups and put them through kind of a basic task of evaluating information online.

[00:31:45] And found they’re not good at it. Even the PhD historians, even the Stanford students are the most, that’s actually apparently the most selective, uh, school in the country for undergraduates so, so the smartest kids in the country and they can’t perform these basic tasks. [00:32:00] They put the same task before fact checkers and they do something totally different.

[00:32:04] Um, and part of it is, you know, we’ve been taught traditionally, when you evaluate a source, you know, you look at its footnotes, you kind of read it top to bottom. And the reality is you should probably leave that source immediately, start googling it and figuring out if it, if it’s coming from a credible, credible place.

[00:32:22] So it’s a skill set. It’s a totally new skill set. Uh, we’re not all that well. To teach it. There’s an assumption amongst educators that students are good at this because they’re so comfortable with devices. Students are comfortable with devices, but they’re not, they’re not good at this as confirmed by the Stanford study.

[00:32:40] So it’s really a skill set that we need to teach. And it’s not just a civics or a social studies thing, it’s literally across academic

[00:32:48] subjects.

[00:32:50] Hillari Lombard: And it’s so difficult because I try very hard when I’m researching for an episode to make sure that I’m providing good information. [00:33:00] So I try to research the source and you go down these rabbit holes, like tease. This is an example, um, I’ll bring this up later, but the, I think it’s the civic alliance.

[00:33:10] I’ll fact check that. Put out a letter opposing a civic education bill, and I was like, that’s curious. I should look into who they are before I decide to take that criticism to heart. And it’s like I don’t always have two hours to deep dive into these things and try to figure it out just to. One basic thing.

[00:33:28] I think that’s difficult for people. It’s a big burden to put on

[00:33:31] them.

[00:33:32] Shawn Healy: No, it is, it is. Right. And, and I had a professor that that always reminded me of that, that my, my aspirations for kind of the engaged citizen were always too lofty, cuz yeah, I’m a political animal, right? I love this stuff. I do it 24

[00:33:46] 7, but most people are busy. Right? Yeah, they’re, they’re just trying to, they’re trying to, you know, survive the nine to five.

[00:33:53] They’re trying to put food on the table. They’re, they’re trying to run their kids to practice, whatever it is. Um, so they [00:34:00] don’t, they don’t have the bandwidth to spend time on this. And we live in this time, this period where there, there’s more information sources than ever before. But how do we filter through the good and the bad?

[00:34:12] And that’s, that’s a, that’s

[00:34:13] a real challenge.

[00:34:15] Hillari Lombard: especially when you have more information sources than we’ve ever had, and lower trust in

[00:34:19] media, you would hope that you could depend on these certain institutions. To give you good, credible information because a bunch of nerds like me and you have done the deep dive so that those people don’t have to.

[00:34:35] But when you have a collapse in trust in media, then it puts the burden on

[00:34:38] the citizen.

[00:34:39] Shawn Healy: Yep. No, and I think a, I think a lot is lost. I’m gonna sound like a dinosaur. I’m only in my, my mid forties. Um, but, uh, something has lost, something’s been lost as we’ve, we’ve gone away from print newspapers, um, and, and,

[00:34:54] You know, obviously the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, they’re all still doing really well [00:35:00]and they now have a, a national audience and most of us read it digitally, and that’s, that’s amazing.

[00:35:06] But what’s cratered is the, the Metropolitan Daily newspaper, there’s just not a revenue model for it anymore.

[00:35:12] They haven’t been able to do the digital subscriptions enough to, to, to basically feed journalists. Right. Which is you have to pay journalists. Um, and, uh, we, we can’t give this stuff all away for free. So the, the Metropolitan Daily is collapsing and so, so, One, we literally don’t have these, these institutions reporting the news like they used to covering city hall, covering the state capital.

[00:35:37] Cuz you and I, even you and I, don’t have time to pay attention to that every day. So we’ve lost that. I consume a ton of news, right. Uh, from, from way more sources than I used to. But there’s something about the newspaper in. There were stories in there, like, I’m always gonna read the sports page.

[00:35:53] I’m always gonna read the stories, stories about the election. But then there were stories in there I read that I don’t read now. Right. [00:36:00] But I read ’em because, yeah, it was in the, it was in the print paper. Uh, there, there was something about it, uh, that. Uh, and that that, yeah. Exposed us to, to a wider view of the issues of the day, A wider view of, uh, frankly viewpoints.

[00:36:15] We read a good, good editorial section and op-ed page that’s gone and that’s not coming back, right? So, uh, I don’t raise that. But then how do you recreate that? And that’s something I struggle to do with my students, cuz yeah, when I started teaching, we used to get. A pile of Chicago Tribunes delivered every day.

[00:36:33] Um, so what’s the modern equivalent to that? How do we kinda recreate that newspaper that was this unifying piece that gave us a common set of information?

[00:36:43] Cuz that’s what we don’t have

[00:36:44] Hillari Lombard: right? You’re only finding the news that you go searching for, unless it’s a

[00:36:48] headline.

[00:36:48] Or unless it’s a story of a murder somewhere in this country. Cuz I feel like that’s the news. I never escape. Like if anyone is hurt anywhere, that will be in my like Facebook or my Instagram feed.

[00:36:59] But [00:37:00]

[00:37:00] what’s going on in my local state house is absent.

[00:37:03] Shawn Healy: right, oh, state House reporting is absolutely cra, absolutely crater. Particularly in states where the capital is not a major metropolitan area. So that, that that’s, yeah, so I live in Illinois. Springfield is three and a half hours from Chicago, and they, they’ve gone just in the last decade from like four dozen people covering the capital to just a

[00:37:25] handful now.

[00:37:26] And that’s, that’s a real loss for democracy.

[00:37:29] Hillari Lombard: Are you implying that Springfield and Chicago are not mutually glamorous

[00:37:32] and

[00:37:32] Shawn Healy: Uh, it’s, it’s not, but it’s, you know, it’s not, Springfield’s not where the major. News organizations in the state are based, right? So they’re, they’re typically in any given state. They’re based in the major metro areas and yeah, costs money to have somebody somewhere else, somebody working remotely. And frankly, uh, those types of stories are broccoli, right?

[00:37:54] Uh, people like you and I, people like you and I consume them. But, as you said, that’s not the type of story [00:38:00] that is interesting. The more casual news

[00:38:02] consumer.

[00:38:03] Hillari Lombard: Especially if you have like 10 minutes to read the news and you have to choose between a crazy thing that like Trump has said, or a bill that might actually impact your life, but

[00:38:11] has such

[00:38:12] Shawn Healy: Right, right. That, yeah. Was in committee

[00:38:14] hearings today. Right?

[00:38:15] Yeah.

[00:38:16] You know, there is a, you know, there is a nonprofit model that’s emerging and, and you know, probably most prominently in Texas with the, the Texas Tribune, but California have Cal Matters, this nonprofit model that’s kind of going back to covering, uh, state and local government.

[00:38:32] So I, I think there’s promise there, and I would encourage. Listeners to, to look into those sources and to, to subscribe and become

[00:38:38] members.

[00:38:39] Hillari Lombard: Yeah, we just had, uh, John Ralston on who is the cEO of the Nevada Independent and our sweet friend of the pod Samantha, is a Report for America Reporter, at the Ohio State House. And that is a nonprofit that pays half of her salary so that the associated Press doesn’t have to bear the full burden.

[00:38:57] Shawn Healy: That’s great.

[00:38:58] Hillari Lombard: But, um, I do wanna zoom [00:39:00] out a little bit. How do you feel about the direction that the country is headed in right

[00:39:05] now,

[00:39:08] Shawn Healy: Yeah, I get asked that a lot because, and I think I’m, I’m mostly asked it from the perspective of like, give me some reason for optimism, right? Because, uh, I’m not seeing this. There’s a lot not to like, right? Clearly there are real problems,

[00:39:22] inflation is, at a level that most of us haven’t seen our lifetimes, or I was very little last time. It was, was this bad? Crime rates are rising after decades, of falling. It does seem like. You know, we’ve never resolved the immigration issue at least since the 1980s, the last time we weighed into it, into a substantive way.

[00:39:42] The Supreme Court has weighed in on a number of contentious issues and, I think further divided the country and undermined some of the trust in that institution. So those are some of the issue based problems. We talked earlier about polarization and polarization, frankly, that we haven’t seen since the Civil [00:40:00] War.

[00:40:01] And trust in institutions as, as you mentioned, that have been on a decline really since the late 1960s. So there’s a lot of despair, I think to, point to in, in the moment, and, we’re such a divided country, we toggle back and forth between the two political parties.

[00:40:18] And the, the kind of result of all that is, is really just kind of stalemate, right? Dysfunction. so, I always tell people I’m, I’m pessimistic about the short term. I’m more optimistic about the long term because one, if you read history, we’ve been in tough spots before maybe not in my lifetime or your lifetime to this degree.

[00:40:39] But we’ve seen moments of despair like this in the past, and I still have, unlike maybe the population as a whole a lot of trust in our institutions and they’re durability

[00:40:54] and then I have a lot of faith actually in the American people.

[00:40:57] Particularly, once again, [00:41:00] it’s, it’s why I get up every day and I don’t look in the mirror that if we invest in young people and their civic development that will empower them, to strengthen and secure this democracy. Um, and, and those are not just talking points. That’s something I genuinely like, I’ve literally committed my career to.

[00:41:18] And I think the challenge was real as I started this work, uh, more than two decades ago. But it seems even more pronounced right now. So there are other things we probably need to do. To shore up our institutions, to reform our institutions, to,

[00:41:33] uh, equip them for the 21st century. But the, I think the most promising long-term solution is investing in young people.

[00:41:40] We have backed away for 50 years, from investing in young people’s civic education. I think the best long term solution is investing, uh, in the next 50

[00:41:51] years,

[00:41:51] Hillari Lombard: Do you think that a lack of civic education is a cause for the ideological conflicts that we’re facing as a nation

[00:41:59] Shawn Healy: I do, and, [00:42:00] and you know, it’s, that’s a challenging question because some of the most polarized people are actually some of the most educated people, so there’s

[00:42:08] Hillari Lombard: Yeah,

[00:42:09] Shawn Healy: line

[00:42:09] right between Educated, Educated, right. Informed in, uh, being not polarized or having more moderated views. Um, but I think the, I think the fundamental problem isn’t so much the polarization.

[00:42:26] Like if we can agree to have these debates, which I think can be healthy in the context of institutions. Uh, I think we can get to the right place. We can use the, we can work through these institutions that have stood the test of time, but we’re at a place now where distrust of institutions is so widespread that that’s the thing that people on the left and the right are agree about.

[00:42:48] Right? That they don’t, uh, trust our institutions. So I think. The real damage that’s been done is two institutions, and that is a result of our [00:43:00]disinvestment, uh, in civic education and our deprioritization of, of civic education. And, and so, so building back that trust in institutions that trust in one another, that frankly, and then, uh, frankly, I can disagree with you right, about any given issue within the confines of these institutions, but that collectively we need to work through these institutions to find compromise and move our country forward.

[00:43:28] So I think that’s what a good civic education does. Uh, it develops an attachment to institutions. Uh, it frankly builds trust in one another. And it equips us to have these healthy ideological debates. Like I, I don’t think ideological debates, uh, by their nature are a bad thing. We have a system that’s actually well designed to facilitate them.

[00:43:49] And those debates are as old as our country. Our country isn’t in itself a debate, right? Uh, but what’s lost here is if we don’t trust our institutions, uh, what, what is the recourse? Right? The [00:44:00] recourse is probably not. These institutions, it’s not even maybe democracy. And that’s, that’s an existential thread, right?

[00:44:06] What if we turn away from our.

[00:44:09] Hillari Lombard: I think that one of the places you also see that fracture is in the type of leaders that we are electing and sending to Congress, because I, I mean, There’s a quote out there that’s like, you get the leaders that you deserve, and I don’t buy into that fully, but what I do buy into is like we are sending people to office that don’t wanna go because of this civic pull that they’re feeling they wanna go for. a myriad of reasons. None of them are exclusively. Because they have this commitment to civics. I do think that people get into state and local politics, not for the fame, obviously , but for their commitment to service. But nationally, we’re electing people that are great on the news, um, but actually at times can seem to have like an

[00:44:58] animus for the

[00:44:59] country. [00:45:00]

[00:45:00] Shawn Healy: Yeah. No, and I, I, I think they play to, uh, our, frankly, a population that is pretty low information. Right? And, and that’s, that’s a product of, of a poor civic education. But I also think it’s important to say, uh, my, my day job is, Working at the state and the federal level, mostly with legislators, uh, from across the aisle, right?

[00:45:22] Republicans and Democrats and independents, uh, to, to strengthen civic education. And, uh, my experience, like particularly once the cameras go away, uh, is that, yeah, there, there are good people at every level. Committed to this issue. So, so the, the profile that you put forth certainly exists. I think it exists at every level of our government, right.

[00:45:44] But in some ways, I would suggest these legislators and, and frankly policy makers more generally that got into this for the right reasons. are captive to a system, right? As you said, privileges, people that are good on, on tv, uh, or radio [00:46:00] or whatever, the medium, uh, social media, uh, over substance and over, over, uh, affecting positive change through policy.

[00:46:09] Hillari Lombard: I think that that is a good point maybe it is the priorities of the electorate as opposed to the policy

[00:46:15] makers themselves.

[00:46:18] Shawn Healy: It is. And, and you know, I think in this is a cycle, and I know this isn’t a podcast about the election, but this is a cycle that, you know, all of the factors, uh, favor the out party. But, uh, to me, what’s been lacking in this midterm cycle is a debate about issues, right?

[00:46:36] Uh, you know, like infl inflation is, anytime we go to the grocery store or fill up our, our car with gas, like we’re staring that in the face, it’s a real issue. But what are the two parties going to do to, to resolve it,

[00:46:49] Hillari Lombard: especially inflation, cuz it’s a difficult issue. If there was an obvious answer, we would’ve fixed it, but I think the difficult issues are where we

[00:46:57] need

[00:46:57] debate the most.

[00:46:58] Shawn Healy: But once again, I [00:47:00] just attribute that to the failure to, to educate people civically. Like these campaigns are not debates and we may well blame the end party for inflation. Right? That’s once again, as old as time. But uh, but then yeah, what is the out party gonna do to resolve it? Right? I think we should demand that also.

[00:47:18] Um, and I’m not confident we’re having that

[00:47:20] type of debate.

[00:47:22] Hillari Lombard: So one of the things that I think we’ve both hit on throughout this conversation is a crisis in civic education. Is it a crisis? If so, like how, how do we know? What level of alarm should we have about civic education?

[00:47:39] Shawn Healy: Well, I think we should be alarmed. Um, you know, I often like to say that there are, there are students in this country that are getting a good civic education. So it’s not to say that, uh, there, there, there are all kinds of signs of promise out there. There are huge equity issues. So who you are as a student where you live, uh, is determinant or the type of civic [00:48:00]education.

[00:48:01] Which I think is really problematic. Uh, there is concerning data. So we have a national assessment of educational progress called the education, the Nation’s Report card. And they, they test students in civics, they test ’em in US history and those tests across. Subject areas have the lowest scores. So last time we did this was 2018, 24% of eighth graders were proficient in civics and only 15% in US history.

[00:48:29] So, um, I, I think it’s fair to say there is a crisis. Um, we’ve, we’ve done, uh, a state policy scan. We found that only six states require a full year of civics in high school. Um, most have a half year course for a lot of students. That’s the only civics class they’re ever gonna get. Uh, about half are doing something in kind of the middle school space.

[00:48:51] Uh, so there’s a lot of room to grow there. Uh, we’ve done the math at the federal level, uh, and we’ve determined that, uh, the United States government, [00:49:00] the federal government is investing five. Per K12 student in civics and, and we found a comparison for STEM subjects, it was $50. Um, so that just speaks to the level of prioritization.

[00:49:12] Uh, and I, if, if it’s not a crisis, I, I would say it’s pretty close to one. And from the perspective of kind of a quality of opportunity, I think there is a real crisis. So, uh, some kids are getting a great civic education in this country. Many are not.

[00:49:28] Hillari Lombard: what do you think the country looks like if we change it? If everybody’s getting a strong civic education, what does the country look

[00:49:35] like?

[00:49:36] Shawn Healy: So I, I think we get closer to that ideal right closer with, without having rose car glasses here, closer to that ideal of a more perfect union where one participation in this country is more equitable. Um, I, I always talk, when I get in front of a group, I say, Hey, the face of civic engagement in this country looks like me.

[00:49:58] I’m white, um, I’m [00:50:00] middle, upper income, I’m highly educated. If you peel those layers back, you’re less likely to participate in a lot of ways in our democracy. In fact, voting’s the most equitable thing we do. Um, once you get outside of voting, um, you know, if it talk about contacting public officials donating to a, to a charitable cause, um, You’re, you’re exponentially less likely to participate attending a public meeting, exponentially less likely to participate.

[00:50:26] So I think participation looks more equitable, and we know there’s a direct relationship between who participates and the type of policy outcomes that we have in this country. So I think it really would affect policy change. And I don’t think that leans one direction or the. Politically actually, um, I think I, I think the right and the left have no shortage, probably of good and bad ideas, but, but frankly, so many of us are not engaged and therefore don’t necessarily have a direct claim on public policy outcomes.

[00:50:58] It impacts us. But [00:51:00] frankly, if, if we’re not engaged in the process, we’re not represented all that well. Right. Um, so, so I think, uh, one, uh, I would, I would guess that polarization, uh, would, would be, uh, lessened. Uh, I guess that we’d be able to have some of these tough arguments across difference. I guess that compromise, uh, I should go beyond guess, predict that compromise, uh, is possible at every layer of government.

[00:51:27] So, so this really started to grip our country at the national level, but now is playing, playing out at the in-state capitals and even city halls.

[00:51:35] Um, but. Yeah, I just, exactly. So I happen to think a, a rising tide, uh, lifts all boats and, you know, we are not living up, uh, to the tenets of a constitutional democracy, which re really relies on, uh, mass participation and frankly, for all of us being equipped for that mass participation.

[00:51:56] And, uh, so I think the system. Works [00:52:00] so much better, um, with a bottom up approach than a top down approach. And that’s what we have right now is a top down approach where most of us are sitting on the sidelines, particularly outside of election cycles. Most of us are sitting on the sidelines and we let the professional politicians, um, make decisions for us and often more in alignment with, with interests that don’t necess necessarily represent ours.

[00:52:23] So, uh, I think just broadly we’re better off with mass civic education, uh, which facilitates informed and effective parti.

[00:52:34] Hillari Lombard: how do we get more

[00:52:35] of it?

[00:52:37] Shawn Healy: Well, I think, uh, a lot of it plays out at the state level, right? So, so, uh, in terms of, uh, what’s taught, how it’s taught, those decisions are made, uh, at the state and local level. Um, I, I represent a coalition called Civics. Now, we’ve put forth a policy menu of options, starts with having dedicated courses in civics.

[00:52:58] We think students should have project [00:53:00] based learning opportunities. There’s a lot more to the mix. We think that, uh, states should put funding into this, right? Um, but then there’s a companion role for the federal government to play. Uh, we have a bill we’re working on right now. It’s getting laid in the hundred 17th Congress, but it’s called the Civic Secures Democracy Act that would mostly bring funding to states.

[00:53:20] And, and, uh, pass that money down to school districts to expand civic learning opportunities for students. It’s a bipartisan bill. It’s a bicameral bill. Uh, and if we got that passed as it’s written, we’d go from 5 cents a student, $18 a student. So, uh, there’s a fundamental role. We think for the federal government to play, particularly on the funding side.

[00:53:43] So those are a couple of things, but as you mentioned earlier, with school boards, a lot of this plays out locally. So, uh, decisions about what’s taught and how it’s taught are made at that local level, and I think that’s a really good place for us to engage at, uh, to demand, uh, their schools put forth a [00:54:00] plan, uh, for student civic development throughout their, their K-12 experience in that district.

[00:54:06] Hillari Lombard: So I wanna circle back to the bill that you were talking about, um, the Civic Secures Democracy Act, which has been strangely controversial because people on the right, not all of them, but um, several high profile pundits have talked about, and I guess Ron DeSantis have talked about how this indoctrinates critical race theory, what do you say to that?

[00:54:30] Shawn Healy: So I, I’m not gonna, uh, evaluate, uh, you know, their motivation. Right. But I, but I can weigh in, um, in terms of, yeah. Address some of the critiques of the bill and, you know, Starting out from a standpoint that the bill, uh, is agnostic on curriculum, um, it, uh, actually takes a position as a rule of construction.

[00:54:54] It forbids the imposition of any national curriculum. So, uh, that, that claim [00:55:00] is impossible right there. There’s, uh, and. There. Moreover, uh, we, we worked, uh, with our, our co-sponsors to revise the bill, uh, to put guardrails in place and specifically define what we meant by civic education. And it really is a focus.

[00:55:18] I, I, uh, encourage our critics to read the bill, encourage, uh, our supporters that read the bill too. Uh, and it’s not that long a bill, it’s, it’s

[00:55:26] 35 pages and

[00:55:29] Hillari Lombard: It’s such a manageable length

[00:55:31] Shawn Healy: Yeah. Yeah. It really is. Yeah. Yeah. So, and, and in that bill we define what we mean by civic education, and I, I, I think you’ll find, uh, it doesn’t land anywhere close to those claims of, of, of some of our critics.

[00:55:46] Uh, the truth is that decisions in our country about what’s taught. And how it’s taught are made at the state level and often at the district level. Right. Um, so, uh, states are, [00:56:00] uh, taking measures, uh, to restrict what’s taught, right? States are also taking measures proactively to say, Hey, you should teach about this.

[00:56:09] Right? Uh, the bill respects that this is a, a federal system. Uh, it’s a system that, uh, for the most part is premised on local. This bill is respective of that. What it does more than anything is empowers, uh, local school districts to do more, to provide more civic learning opportunities for students to provide training opportunities for, for teachers to have, to provide access to high quality curriculum and materials.

[00:56:36] So it really is an exercise in federalism. Uh, so those, those claims are, are,

[00:56:42] uh, purely false.

[00:56:44] Hillari Lombard: and I will say to your listeners, I have read said 35 page bill and genuinely could not find critical race theory or anything of the like in the bill. So it’s one of the reasons that I wanted you to respond to it, Sean, cuz I was like, is there, did I miss [00:57:00] something? Or I like, I don’t even really think that it. Anything that leans that way.

[00:57:08] Shawn Healy: it’s very much a focus on our, our government institutions on the Constitution, on the Declaration of Independence. So it is a focus on foundational civic knowledge. And that’s one thing actually that as Americans, we agree on. We have a poll coming out in the next week that will attest to that.

[00:57:26] And uh, we actually asked Americans like, when it comes to civics, what do you want taught? And they basically said, yeah, we want a focus on the founding documents. We wanna focus on. Our institutions are three branches, and we wanna focus on how do you participate in our democracy. That’s, that’s what Americans want civics to be, and that’s, that’s what our bill

[00:57:45] privilege is.

[00:57:47] Hillari Lombard: Sean, I have really enjoyed this conversation a lot. As our closing note, what can listeners do to help get that bill passed or to engage with the work that you, that

[00:57:57] you’re doing?

[00:57:58] Shawn Healy: Yeah. Thank, thank you one [00:58:00] for the opportunity. Hillary and I, I too have enjoyed this and would, would, uh, be awaited to come back. So go to our website, uh, it’s civics now, civ x o and on our website. We have information about the Federal Bill, the Civic Secures Democracy Act. We have online tools where you can, you can look up your senators and your representative.

[00:58:22] I know the, the dedicated listeners of this show. You, you know, those people. But we actually, uh, provide pre-populated emails that you can customize to, to your own liking. We provide call scripts and give you the, the phone numbers, uh, in the email addresses to those offices. Literally takes a couple of minutes and, uh, we have just a couple of months to till, uh, this Congress expires.

[00:58:45] This bill turns into a pumpkin. So, so please do that, uh, immediately. Um, as I said, a lot of this work plays out at the state level, so check out some of the work we’re doing at the state level that’s on the website. Check out what your state’s doing with respect to civics and frankly, what it’s not [00:59:00] doing.

[00:59:00] And if you’re really interested, we have state coalitions we’d love to connect you to at that level. And maybe at, at just a base level, uh, sign up for our newsletter. We put out a monthly newsletter and you just can follow what we’re doing and, uh, uh, pay attention to, to, to some of the causes that are playing out at the local level that I think maybe are most important and, and

[00:59:20] most affect us.

[00:59:21] Hillari Lombard: And I’m pretty sure they can follow you on social

[00:59:23] media too.

[00:59:24] Shawn Healy: We have a handle at civics now and uh, my handle is at civics in the usa.

[00:59:31] Hillari Lombard: Wonderful, Sean. Thank

[00:59:32] you.

[00:59:33] Shawn Healy: Thank you

[00:59:35] Hillari Lombard: All right guys. That’s it for this conversation, but I do have a small housekeeping note that I wanna leave you with. The bill that Sean referred to was unlikely to be called for a vote before the conclusion of the hundred and 17th Congress, but I would like to say a sincere thank you on behalf of Sean and the Civics Now Coalition to the co-sponsors of the bill, representative Del Lao, Cole and Blumenau, as well as Senator Koons and Cornman for their fierce advocacy for a once in a generation federal investment [01:00:00] in K through 12 civic education.

[01:00:01] The coalition’s not gonna stop fighting The effort to pass this bill will begin brand new with the new Congress in January. If this is something that you’re interested in, stay tuned because we will keep you posted.

[01:00:13] Don’t forget to like rate and review this podcast wherever you’re listening. I know that you’ve probably heard this a dozen times because you probably listened to other podcasts, but it does actually help this podcast move up in the algorithm and that helps people find us.

[01:00:25] Being a moderate can be lonely. Sometimes being politically homeless can be even lonelier, and we just wanna make sure that those people don’t have to be lonely alone. That’s it for me guys. I will see you next week. Bye.


Senior Director, Policy and Advocacy // iCivics

Shawn Healy, PhD, Senior Director, Policy and Advocacy, leads iCivics’ state and federal policy and advocacy work through the CivXNow Coalition and oversees civic education campaigns in several key states. He plays an active role in recruiting supporters to fund policy, advocacy, and implementation efforts nationwide to ensure impact.

Healy chaired the Illinois Task Force on Civic Education in 2014 and later led separate, successful legislative campaigns for a required civics course in Illinois in middle and high school, respectively. He also led the Illinois Social Science Standards Task Force. Its recommendations were adopted by the Illinois State Board of Education in 2015.

Healy also serves as an adjunct professor in Public Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is a Serve Illinois Commissioner. Before joining iCivics, Healy worked for fifteen years at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation in various capacities, most recently serving as Democracy Program Director. He began his career as a social studies teacher at West Chicago Community High School (IL) and Sheboygan North and South High Schools (WI).

A 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin, he holds a MA and PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago in political science and earned a bachelor’s degree with distinction in Political Science, History and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. His dissertation is titled “Essential School Supports for Civic Learning.”

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