ASU In the News

Pennsylvania's occupational licensing reforms would lower barriers for ex-offenders; more reforms needed


As several states address criminal justice reform and recidivism, Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering a policy change to the commonwealth’s occupational licensing laws, which currently forbid ex-offenders from attaining certain licenses.

An estimated one in three American adults have a criminal record. In Pennsylvania, approximately 4 to 5% of adult residents had a felony conviction as of 2010. Access to steady employment is necessary in reducing recidivism, but Pennsylvania, like many states, has made it exceedingly difficult for ex-felons to reenter the workforce.

Blanket bans on the issuance of licenses due to criminal convictions unnecessarily single out ex-offenders and make it more difficult for these persons to find work, leading to increased rates of recidivism. In fact, there is a direct correlation between occupational licensing burdens and recidivism. A 2016 Policy Report from the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty at Arizona State University found that “between 1997 and 2007 the states with the highest occupational licensing burdens saw an average increase in the three-year, new-crime recidivism rate of over 9%.” States with the lowest regulatory burdens “saw an average decline … of nearly 2.5%.”

Gainful employment is key in reducing recidivism. The Manhattan Institute notes ex-offenders who quickly found employment upon their release were 20 percent less likely to return to prison. Indeed, a “five-year follow-up study of released offenders” in Indiana found “post-release employment was an effective buffer for reducing recidivism among ex-offenders.” 

Article Source: The Heartland Institute

Project Coordinator, Center for the Study of Economic Liberty

Reflections on the 156th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address

ASU professor thinks back to the famous speech and why it's important to teach today


November 19, 2019

Nov. 19 marks the 156th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, a speech that lasted only a few minutes yet has remained one of the most enduring statements of American principles and aspiration.

Delivered at the commemoration of the Gettysburg National Cemetery in Pennsylvania, Lincoln concluded his remarks by urging his fellow citizens to “highly resolve ... that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Abraham Lincoln at his second inauguration. Download Full Image

Zachary German, an assistant professor in the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, teaches CEL 394, a course on the 16th president titled “Lincoln: Rhetoric, Thought, Statesmanship”. German also teaches in the school’s summer program, the Civic Leadership Institute, which welcomes more than 60 students from across Arizona to learn about the Constitution and Abraham Lincoln. ASU Now spoke with him about the lasting legacy of Lincoln's famous address and how it resonates today.

Question: Why is the message of the Gettysburg Address still relevant 156 years later?

Answer: As we continue to endure intense polarization and partisanship in our contemporary political life, the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address is a timely reminder of the common project to which we should seek to contribute together, and of the challenges that the project has always involved.  

The Gettysburg Address summons us to a deeper, more profound sense of our political identity, as a “nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” The task of living up to that identity is something that connects us to “our fathers,” to “the brave men” who shed their blood on the battlefield of Gettysburg and elsewhere, to our fellow citizens, and to generations to come whose future will be shaped, in meaningful ways, by our devotion to that task. 

Q: What lessons can modern Americans take from the speech?

A: According to Lincoln, the Civil War was a test of whether “that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” After all, a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to equality had been torn apart by the conflict over slavery. Government by the people had disintegrated into a war among the people; ballots had been replaced with bullets. When Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg, the nation was over two years into the bloodiest conflict of its history, and it still had nearly two more years before the war would cease. The nation almost didn’t survive the test that Lincoln described at Gettysburg. 

While Lincoln led the nation to the conclusion of the war, the test, in a broader sense, has never really ended. We’re always taking it — always in the midst of determining the extent to which a nation “so conceived and so dedicated” can persist. The dual challenge facing every generation is to preserve our union and to pursue its noble commitments at the same time. To equip us for that challenge, our current leaders, our future leaders, and all citizens would do well to read, talk, and think more about Lincoln.

ASU In the News

Why libertarians should read Frank Knight


In an article, Ross Emmett, director of the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty and Professor of Political Economy in the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership discusses the importance of reading Frank Knight's work.

At Chicago, of course, Knight is best known as one of the early founders of Chicago economics, a school that was especially important in the middle of the 20th century when Milton Friedman was joined by George Stigler, T. W. Schultz, Ronald Coase, Harold Demsetz, Al Harberger, Gary Becker, and other market-oriented economists.

But despite being Knight’s protégés, Chicago economists often ran afoul of their mentor’s view of the world. From the 1940s on, Knight’s attention turned from economic theory and market organization to thinking about markets in their broader institutional context. There were no sacred cows for Knight.

Throughout his life, Knight argued first and foremost that an understanding of basic market principles was essential to all social and political discourse.

He also made two other arguments over and over again. First, uncertainty is a feature of the world we live in, not a bug. But the fact that uncertainty plagues human existence does not mean that progress is impossible. It just means that there is no “one” answer. In the absence of certainty from either science or morality, Knight argued, secondly, that discussion was essential. A favorite line of his in the latter part of his career was picked up and carried forward by Buchanan: “Democracy is government by discussion.”

Article Source: Libertarianism.org

Project Coordinator, Center for the Study of Economic Liberty

ASU part of cohort receiving award to fund civic education study

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership is among the partners in a $650,000 NEH and Department of Education grant


November 1, 2019

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University has partnered with civic education provider iCivics and two prominent universities as part of a major grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the U.S. Department of Education. 

The NEH, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, has awarded a $650,000 cooperative agreement to a collaborative of experts who will work together to design a roadmap to prepare K–12 students for America’s constitutional democracy. Paul Carrese, Director, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership Paul Carrese, director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. Download Full Image

"Educating for American Democracy: A Roadmap for Excellence in History and Civics Education for All Learners" will bring together more than 100 leading academics and practitioners in education, civics, history and political science to set out a foundation for understanding and teaching American history and civics. The project will issue a roadmap that will outline high-priority civics content areas and make clear and actionable recommendations for integrating the teaching of civics and history at every grade level, along with best practices and implementation strategies that teachers, schools, districts and states can use to shape their instructional programs. 

The roadmap will develop the foundation from which to prepare all students to understand the value of America’s constitutional democracy as well as its past failures and present challenges. The goal is to design a program that will secure a strong commitment to and sense of ownership of that democracy in K–12 students.

Educating for American Democracy will rely on the expertise of the teams at ASU, Harvard University and Tufts University and will utilize iCivics’ community of more than 100,000 teachers as well as partner communities for field testing to ensure that the roadmap is a practical and useful document in the classroom. It will draw upon the collective network of CivXNow, a coalition of 113 organizations and foundations dedicated to improving civic education in order to disseminate the curriculum.

“Our republic faces deep partisan and philosophical polarization, while understanding of and trust in America’s democratic institutions are low — especially among younger citizens," said Paul Carrese, director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. "Our interdisciplinary and balanced team of scholars and civic educators believes that greater priority for civics education, tailored to 21st-century students, can improve our civic debates and politics. We’re excited to help lead this national effort to prepare informed and engaged citizens by providing quality American history and civics education for all learners.”

The Educating for American Democracy project will hold two convenings in the spring of 2020; one at Arizona State University and one at Louisiana State University. It will then issue a report, prior to a National Forum to be co-hosted by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History and the National Archives and Records Administration Foundation in September 2020 in Washington, D.C.

“As the United States looks toward our 250th anniversary as a nation in 2026, it is critical that our K–12 educational system teaches the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and the democratic principles on which the country was founded,” NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede said. “The National Endowment for the Humanities is pleased to be working with Educating for American Democracy to identify ways to improve the teaching and learning of American history and government so that all students gain an appreciation of the workings of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.” 

The Educating for American Democracy project responds to an NEH-Education Department call for proposals for a 15-month project that would highlight innovative approaches, learning strategies and professional development practices in K–12 civics education, with an emphasis on activities and programs that benefit low-income and underserved populations.

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership is an academic unit inside The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University. In its third academic year, the school combines a liberal arts education with outside-the-classroom learning experiences to prepare its students for leadership roles in the 21st century. The school has also developed a robust public programming schedule in its Civic Discourse Project, which addresses the pressing issues of our times, and is aired on PBS Arizona. 

Manager, Marketing and Communications, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership

480-965-5130

 
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Immigration authors examine nuances of assimilation at ASU talk

Immigration authors examine nuances of assimilation at ASU talk.
October 31, 2019

School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership holds civic discourse discussion

When people move to the United States, their journey to assimilation is a complex process that involves change for everyone in the community, according to two authors who have studied this contemporary issue.

Reihan Salam, author of the upcoming “Melting Pot or Civil War: A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders,” and Tomás Jiménez, author of “The Other Side of Assimilation: How Immigrants are Changing American Life,” spoke at Arizona State University on Wednesday night. Their talk, titled “Becoming American: Immigration and Civic Integration,” was sponsored by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at ASU.

The two men discussed how assimilation is not an either/or event.

“Assimilation is a moving target,” said Salam, who is executive editor of the National Review.

“If you’re trying to define it very narrowly, it’s becoming more like the ‘average person,’ but immigration changes the nature of the country over time. You’re not hitting a fixed target.”

Reihan Salam,who spoke at ASU Wednesday night, is author of the upcoming “Melting Pot or Civil War: A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders." Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

There’s also a difference between immigrants who circle back and forth from America to their home country and those who never return.

“Vietnamese immigrants, in the wake of the Vietnamese war, were among the most assimilated mostly because there was an expectation that Vietnam was not a homeland that one could return to regularly,” he said.

Jiménez said that assimilation involves “mutual change.”

“There’s a back and forth volley of adjustment and readjustment happening in a cultural context, with respect to notions of success and failure in school, and with respect to the notion of who belongs and on what basis,” said Jiménez, who is professor of sociology and comparative studies in race and ethnicity at Stanford University.

“If I had to distill it down, it’s the decline of an ethnic boundary, when people see each other as more similar than different.”

Population demographics in America have changed over time, and that’s shaped attitudes toward immigration, Salam said.

He noted that the share of the foreign-born population has increased sharply, to about 13%, in the context of a steep decrease in the number of native-born children. Decades ago, people believed that investing in their community would mostly benefit their own descendants, but that’s no longer the case.

“It has to do with replenishment. It’s a game of numbers,” he said.

“I believe it’s one reason why you see such intense polarization around these issues.”

Public perception also doesn’t always match what’s really happening, Jiménez said.

“One of the most underappreciated events in the demography of immigration is the end of a mass wave of Mexican immigration that had gone uninterrupted for 100 years, and it came at the end of the Great Recession,” he said.

“Since then, Mexican immigration has been a net negative. That’s had a profound impact on the population but not an impact on the way the population is perceived.

“Ten years ago, 1 in 4 people of Mexican descent were undocumented. Now it’s 15%.”

Both men agreed that the current immigration system, with waits of a decade or longer, is inefficient and inhumane, but they differ on how open the process should be.

“Today’s immigrants come overwhelmingly from Asia and Latin America and those immigrants, across the generations, are integrating as fast if not faster than the immigrants of the great European immigration from the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” Jiménez said.

Tomás Jiménez, who spoke at ASU Wednesday night, is author of “The Other Side of Assimilation: How Immigrants are Changing American Life." Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mass legalization of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States would speed that integration, he said.

“The condition of illegality is not only a drag on their integration, it’s a drag on the integration of subsequent generations,” he said. “We know from social science research that the penalty reverberates three generations into the future.”

He said that the DACA program, which is not legalization, still benefitted the young people it affected.

“The best data we have showed that their mental health improved, the mental health of their children improved, they were more likely to get married and spend money,” he said.

“The most recent polling shows that 80% of the American public favors a legalization program.”

Salam said that immigration used to be thought of in the context of the need for a lot of low-skilled labor, but with that need decreasing and the need for highly skilled labor increasing, the conversation has changed.

“I believe our system is incoherent and does not align with the values and sensibilities of a majority of America,” he said. “In our system, now you have a wait list of over 4 million people in the queue for family preference visas. If you have a job offer in the U.S. and speak English fluently, guess what? You cannot move up the queue.”

He said that the U.S. should establish a pathway of skills for immigrants, including avenues for refugees and asylum-seekers.

“When it comes to skills I believe in a blended approach rather than the binary approach we have now, where you’re either an affluent, sophisticated, highly skilled person or an underdog,” Salam said.

“Another way to think of it is a system that serves as a roadmap: ‘Here are the things that it takes for you to thrive and survive in this country.’ We want a policy that protects a certain kind of continuity and in light of a changing safety net.”

Top image: Reihan Salam (left) and Tomás Jiménez immigration at the SCETL Civic Discourse Project talk, "Becoming American: Immigration and Civic Integration," on Wednesday at the Memorial Union. The talk was part of the school’s Civic Discourse Project, now in its third year, with the theme “Citizenship and Civic Leadership in America.” Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503

 
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'One Small Step' toward a more civil future

October 24, 2019

National nonprofit StoryCorps brings conversation series to ASU's School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership

Shakespeare was hardly the first to acknowledge mankind’s shared humanity, but the words he used to do so are inarguably enduring.

“If you prick us, do we not bleed?” asked the Jewish character Shylock, imploring his audience in the Bard’s “The Merchant of Venice” to recognize the value in his life as equal to that of the life of a Christian.

It’s a simple yet profound question: Though we all have our differences, do they outweigh our similarities?

Over the course of a week in August, a handful of students at Arizona State University had the chance to reflect on that question when they engaged in one-on-one conversations with someone whose beliefs differed from their own.

Now available to listen to online, their conversations are part of the One Small Step initiative led by national nonprofit StoryCorps, which records, preserves and shares the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs. ASU’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership hosted One Small Step at the university to assist with its effort to include student voices in its growing repository.

Aside from institutions of higher education, One Small Step has also partnered with community-based organizations and faith communities to record such conversations.

Video by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership

“One of our focuses has been working with colleges because students are eager for spaces to … discuss opposing viewpoints in a respectful and structured way,” said Roselyn Almonte, manager for community partnerships for One Small Step.

“We've also been finding that students are often in the process of forming their political opinions in college and often (are) more receptive to listening to opposing viewpoints and learning about different experiences, which creates a richer StoryCorps One Small Step conversation experience.”

Students discussed everything from their family backgrounds to their political influences to their religious beliefs. The resounding theme of their reactions to the experience was that we all have more in common than we don’t.

Religious studies sophomore Jaxon Washburn said he and his conversation partner, Desmond Kumi, a junior in business law, ironically found their similarities lie in their differences.

“He was raised in more of a liberal household but now finds himself more moderate-right-leaning,” Washburn said. “I was raised in a more conservative household, but I find myself now leaning more moderate-left.

“I felt like even though this person was a complete stranger, we were able to have a really good, positive conversation and we were able to unpack our different backgrounds and where we were coming from. I really enjoyed hearing his story.”

Sustainability and geography junior Sakshi Hegde and mathematics sophomore Janani Lakshmanan disagreed about the cost of higher education but bonded over their backgrounds — both are from immigrant families who they say guided their values and beliefs.

“It was interesting because our influences were very similar, but they also made us very different people,” Lakshmanan said.

Hegde said she wanted to participate in the One Small Step conversations because it’s important now more than ever to try to reach across political divides.

“Especially in this day and age, where there's a lot of political polarization, when you hear another person's party or beliefs, you immediately form an assumption about them based on that and then refuse to have a conversation with them,” she said. “I feel like this brings people of different political backgrounds together and allows them to have open, cordial conversations.”

“Not every person you meet is going to agree with you, and you’re not going to agree with every person you meet,” Lakshmanan added. “So if you close yourself off from the world like that, how productive are you going to be as a citizen?”

The pair said they plan to keep in touch going forward.

One of the core tenets behind the founding of ASU’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership in 2017 was the obligation of institutes of higher education to promote civil discourse and free speech.

Aside from a curriculum that includes two bachelor's degrees and one minor, the school’s programming includes public talks that feature nationally renowned speakers from a variety of political backgrounds.

“[We] started the Civic Discourse Project three years ago to provide a space for robust civil discourse on important issues with speakers across diverse viewpoints, providing examples of civil disagreement to university students and the broader community,” said Paul Carrese, the school’s director.

“Additionally, we hope to use our speaker series and related events as a catalyst for future One Small Step initiatives the school plans to lead on campus.”

Staff at the school underwent training to become facilitators for the program and plan to host future recordings.

Washburn said that not only would he do it again, but that the experience has inspired him to apply what he learned in his everyday life.

“Conversations like this don’t just have to be things we plan out ahead of time through an organization,” he said. “When we’re walking through campus or waiting in line, we don’t have to just listen to our headphones or stare at our phones. Those are opportunities for people to actually talk to each other.

“Essentially what this demonstrated to me is that you can take two absolute strangers, and if you just get them talking, they can have a great conversation that is valuable to both of them. There’s a lot of strangers who don’t have to stay strangers.”

Top photo: ASU political science major Nathanael Hauschild (front center) and history major Clinton Barney record a conversation for StoryCorps' One Small Step initiative on Arizona State University's Tempe campus. Photo by Samantha Lloyd/ASU

 
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ASU undergrads help produce first-of-its-kind report on business rules

ASU undergrads help produce groundbreaking report on business regulations.
October 9, 2019

Research ranks Phoenix, 114 other cities on regulations, ease of doing business

A team of undergraduate researchers at Arizona State University spent a year mining and analyzing data to produce a first-of-its-kind report that ranks 115 cities in three countries on how easy it is to start a business.

“Doing Business North America,” a wide-ranging comparison of six types of business regulations in Canada, Mexico and the United States, was released today by the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty, a joint endeavor of the W. P. Carey School of Business and the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.

The project, based on the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report, involved a dozen undergraduates in different disciplines led by Stephen Slivinski, senior research fellow and project director at the center.

The students pored over data sets and websites, collecting information such as the laws covering maternity leave, how many steps it takes to get the power turned on and how high the tax rate is. For example, it can take more than two months to complete the procedures required to open a business in Little Rock, Arkansas, compared with four days in San Pedro, Mexico.

“'Doing Business North America' is predicated on the idea that a well-functioning economy requires good rules,” said Ross Emmett, director of the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty. “The ease of doing business in a location is higher when the rules are clear and the steps involved are few. A study like this is useful for policy research in both the academic and the policymaker communities.”

Among the 115 cities evaluated, Oklahoma City ranked first in overall ease of doing business. Phoenix came in at No. 20, scoring 80.52 out of 100.

Slivinski said that a lot of research compares business regulations between states and countries, including the World Bank report, but there are no city-to-city comparisons.

“So we instantly realized there was an opportunity here to go deeper,” he said. “That’s where a lot economic activity happens. It’s where people live.”

Besides the overall score, the team measured six other categories: starting a business, employing workers, getting electricity, registering property, paying taxes and resolving insolvency. All of the data will be available for download by the public.

“We wanted to make sure we had a data set that was robust to help researchers and policy makers understand the differences between places and the benefits that come with certain ways of doing things and disadvantages of doing it other ways,” Slivinski said.

“This is something that could only have been done at a place like ASU, where we have good students to choose from, we have this interdisciplinary approach where we can draw from different schools, and we think in a broader policy context.

“This goes beyond business. It goes to quality of life in an area.”

The research started in April 2018, when the team looked at the World Bank report and decided how to expand on it.

"They only did five cities in North America and the two they chose in the U.S. were New York and LA, which are not representative cities," he said.

The World Bank report includes many countries, some with developing economies. So some of the variables it measures, like barriers to women owning property and the likelihood of power outages, could be discarded.

Politics can play a role too.

“The World Bank can get pressure from member countries if a country doesn’t like its ranking,” Slivinski said. “This was a refreshingly academic endeavor. We wanted to plunge into the collection and find out what we could.”

Celeste Karlsrud, a senior in the School of Sustainability, was on the team of 12 student workers and enjoyed collecting the data.

“It was interesting to look at things like maternity leave and how many sick days were allowed. I liked getting down to the nitty-gritty public policy of it,” she said.

“We would dive into research papers and go through websites, and then we had to compare different kinds of resources. That’s when we would get together to go over what was relevant, or made sense or answered our questions.”

Paul Bernert, a research technician in the center, said the project had to start from scratch.

“There was no framework for how to collect data or what was in the realm of possibility,” he said. “Not only did we collect the data, but we had to come up with the system for how we actually ranked the cities. We had inspiration from the World Bank, so it’s an adaptation of what they did.”

The project is funded for several years by a donor, so the team will soon begin work on next year’s report, which Slivinski hopes will include more categories.

Nicholas McCrossan, a senior majoring in supply chain management and finance, helped to collect data and then create the ranking system.

“We had to look at things like, if you can find information online and file online or if you have to show up in person,” he said. “Then I helped to design the categories, making sure we could find all the information we needed.”

The category “employing workers” includes requirements such as minimum wage, paid annual leave and severance pay. Higher-scoring cities had lower or no requirements for those benefits. Slivinski said that “regulations on employing workers” also could be viewed as “worker protections.”

“I predict some of the cities that score low on this would say, ‘We disagree with your assumptions,’” he said.

“The best part about this is that because the data is being publicly released, they can take it and flip all the defaults and say, ‘We don’t think we should be marked down on that. We should be marked up.’

“That’s absolutely within the realm of what’s possible and what we hope people do with this.”

Top image: Phoenix was among the 115 cities ranked. The category rankings for Phoenix: starting a business, 40th; employing workers, 46th; registering property, seventh; getting electricity, seventh; paying taxes, 32nd. For “resolving insolvency,” all American cities tied for first, followed by Canadian cities and then Mexican cities. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503

New lecture series aims to capture importance of civic participation

Speakers include prominent New York Times columnist, Arizona political experts and prominent scholars


September 24, 2019

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership will launch the third season of its “Civic Discourse Project” on Sept. 25, an annual lecture series designed to bring differing viewpoints to Arizona State University to discuss the most pertinent issues of our time. 

The school began the annual lecture series in 2017 to address the challenges confronting American society, by first addressing the theme of free speech and intellectual diversity on college campuses and American society, followed by a series devoted to discussing polarization and civil disagreement Crowd, Robby George and Cornel West The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership will kick off the third season of its “Civic Discourse Project” on Sept. 25, an annual lecture series designed to bring differing viewpoints to Arizona State University to discuss the most pertinent issues of our time. Download Full Image

The first two series brought to campus prominent minds, including Jonah Goldberg, Danielle Allen, Robby George and Cornel West, former U.S. Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Tom Daschle (D-SD), and more. Each lecture is also aired on PBS Arizona and is co-sponsored with the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, as well. 

The school’s third season seeks to discuss the possibility of moving beyond polarization and political conflict to civic renewal. The foundation of civic renewal is the willingness of people to participate in the civic institutions at the foundation of American society. This year, the topic will focus on a conversation about what it means to be an active citizen of the United States of America in 2019.

“The primary goal for both the Civic Discourse Project and the most recent season, Citizenship and Civic Leadership in America, is to engage our community in thinking about these crucial ideas,” said Paul Carrese, founding director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. “By hosting these conversations, we are giving ASU students and faculty, as well as the broader community, the opportunity to have a robust but civil debate.”

 

This year’s fall lineup includes prominent names such as:

  • Robert Putnam, Harvard University sociologist and author of “Bowling Alone”
  • David Leonhardt, columnist for The New York Times
  • Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor for The National Review
  • Reihan Salam, president of the Manhattan Institute 
  • Tomás Jiménez of Stanford University
  • Daniel Scarpinato, chief of staff for Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey
  • Sarah Elliott, former communications director for David Garcia for Governor
  • Maria Polletta, state government and politics reporter for The Arizona Republic 

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership will also host its annual Spring Conference on Feb. 28-29. All of the school's events are free and open to the public. To register, visit the school's website

Manager, Marketing and Communications, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership

480-965-5130

ASU professor discusses the history, importance of Constitution Day

Sept. 17 a national day to reflect on the impact of the original document, both its governing principles and its compromises


September 17, 2019

In September 1787, the delegates of the Constitutional Convention took the monumental step of signing the document they had drafted during the convention and which would become the Constitution of the United States. It would be sent to the 13 states for ratification, which was anything but certain. The signatures on that document were the final steps in the creation of a constitutional experiment that has informed and protected the democratic republican principles of the United States of America and set a pattern for emerging democracies around the world. 

Today, more than 200 years into this experiment, it is important to remember that although the U.S. enjoys a stable government, political liberty is fragile and requires attentiveness to continue. As part of a congressional mandate, every college and university that receives federal funding is required to hold an educational program in observance of Constitution Day, and the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University will host its third annual Constitution Day address at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17. A circle of U.S. flags waving in the wind Flags fly on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now Download Full Image

This year, for the 2019 Constitution Day address, the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership hosts former federal judge and Stanford University School of Law Professor Michael McConnell as the school's third Constitution Day speaker. The topic of his address is “The President Who Would Not Be King.” McConnell’s lecture will discuss the struggle of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention to create a single executive, a presidency that would have sufficient energy and authority to lead the nation effectively, but without creating an elective monarchy, which could potentially threaten the liberty of the people.

Question: What is the history of Constitution Day in the United States? 

Answer: Constitution Day honors the day, Sept. 17, 1787, that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met for the final time to sign the document they had written and which they were about to send out to the states for ratification. In 1952, Congress passed a joint resolution designating Sept. 17 as Citizenship Day, followed by another joint resolution in 1956 creating Constitution Week (Sept. 17-23). Then, in 2005, Congress consolidated these to create “Constitution Day,” to require states, counties, cities and towns to commemorate Constitution Day. 

In addition, by congressional mandate, colleges and universities receiving federal funding are required each year to hold an educational program in observance of Constitution Day.

Q: Why is it important for citizens to celebrate Constitution Day?

A: The official purpose of Constitution Day is to set aside a day for the instruction of citizens concerning their responsibilities and opportunities as citizens of the United States. Constitution Day provides an opportunity for institutions of higher education to take a day to engage the student body in discussion about the Constitution, or provisions of the Constitution.

The United States is governed by the rule of law, with the Constitution serving as the fundamental law of the land. It provides rules for the structure of our institutions of government, dividing power between the states and the federal government, and then among the three branches of government — Congress, the executive branch and the judiciary — and ensures the protection of our fundamental rights and freedoms — to freedom of speech, of belief, association, to own property, among others. It also provides an opportunity to reflect on the compromises and flaws to be found in the original document that have had such an enormous impact on American history.   

Q: What should Americans be thinking about on Constitution Day? What should we do to commemorate the adoption of the U.S. Constitution? Why is this important today? 

A: Constitution Day provides an opportunity for Americans to reflect on the unique nature of the American Constitution. It represents a great experiment, as Alexander Hamilton tells us in the first of "The Federalist Papers," and poses the question whether “societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.”  Were human beings capable of designing a government that would protect their rights and freedoms of the people and depend fundamentally on their ability to govern themselves? We are over 200 years into this constitutional experiment, but it is important to remember that while the United States enjoys a stable democratic republican government, political liberty is always fragile and requires study and attentiveness for it to endure.

Q: What should people know about Constitution Day and the U.S. Constitution that may be overlooked? 

A: Perhaps most important to remember is that we should read, teach and study the Constitution as a means to reminding ourselves that government dedicated to the protection of civil rights and liberties, derived from an understanding of human beings as fundamentally equal, is in the long history of the world a relatively new creation, and one that we should not take for granted. We should recall that the Constitution was written as a document with which to govern ourselves as free people. We often fail to live up to our principles, but the continued existence of the Constitution recalls us to those principles.

This article was written by Carol McNamara, associate director for public programs for the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, and a senior lecturer in the school, teaching ancient Greek political thought and leadership, politics and literature, and women in political thought.

 
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Campus discourse has been hijacked by a few radical 'cancelers,' says Robby Soave

September 5, 2019

During ASU speech, libertarian columnist and author calls for culture change to foster healthy civil discourse

Frequent incidents over the past few years in which appearances by conservative speakers have been shut down or canceled at college campuses are an alarming threat to free speech, according to libertarian author Robby Soave.

Soave spoke at Arizona State University on Wednesday night in a talk titled, “Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump,” which is also the name of his recently published book. The talk was sponsored jointly by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership and the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix.

“My book was my attempt to grapple with a phenomenon that probably many of you have taken notice of, which is the climate of hostility to certain principles that I believe in very strongly as a libertarian — things like free speech and due process,” said Soave, who is an associate editor at the website Reason.com.

soave books

Soave's new book discusses the state of free speech on college campuses. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“Things that used to be so vital to the left that have been increasingly under attack.”

Soave said that the most glaring examples have been on college campuses, but it has also happened on social media, in offices and in government.

“It’s the drive to cancel people, to get them fired or run out of society for having said something that offends you, even if it was unintentional, even if it was misinterpreted and it wasn’t meant to trigger you at all,” he said.

“That drive to destroy people for menial sins has migrated from the college campus, where a small number of very radical students has prevented conservative speakers from coming to campus. 

“And it has prevented their own often stridently progressive professors from instructing them because they’ll say something the students object to and then there will be an investigation and the professor learns they have to shut up out of a risk of offending perhaps one person in the classroom.”

The problem is not generational, he said. 

“The problem is a small number, a radical cabal, who have gained some degree of power on campuses in the last two years and have been able to hijack the conversation,” he said.

Soave gave many examples from his book, including:

• In 2017, dozens of students at Middlebury College tried to shut down a speech by Charles Murray, who was invited by a conservative student group and whose books have linked socioeconomic status with race and intelligence. A Middlebury professor was injured in pushing and shoving after the speech.

• Evergreen State College biology Professor Bret Weinstein resigned, and was later awarded a $500,000 settlement, over campus protests that erupted after he challenged an event that asked white students and faculty to leave campus for a day. He was confronted by protesting students and campus police told him they couldn’t guarantee his safety.

• At Harvard, law Professor Ronald Sullivan Jr. was fired as a faculty dean in May after students protested his decision to represent disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

“Harvard has mounted what can only be called all-out war on the principles of free speech at an administrative level,” Soave said.

Not all of the incidents involved progressive students shutting down conservative speakers, he said, but conservative activists are usually outnumbered on campuses. He said some conservative groups have invited provocative speakers because they wanted to incite a shutdown.

“‘Who will trigger the left the most?’ If that is your mentality you are not making a good-faith effort to foster healthy civil discourse between two sides,” he said.

Soave described how the free speech movement started with liberals at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1960s, and how the activists were so dedicated to the idea that they invited an actual Nazi to campus and then dressed up in Nazi regalia as a stunt to publicize the talk.

“No one shut him down. They gleaned insight into how someone could hold those abhorrent views,” he said. “Can you imagine that happening today? And this was less than 20 years after Nazis were an existential threat to life on the planet.”

So what comes next? Not government interference, he said.

“What we need is a cultural change. We need to say, ‘No, we will not demand you lose your job or be run off campus.’ The people who want that to happen, I really do believe, are a minority.”

Often, it only takes one person to speak up, and he gave an example of a student who confronted protestors and asked that a speaker be allowed to continue.

“It robbed the mob of their power,” he said. “Calling out the canceler can work and I’ve seen it work and I encourage us all to be more bold in doing so.”

During the question period after his talk, Soave was asked to elaborate on his title, “.. In the Age of Trump.”

“Many of the phenomena I describe predate (Donald) Trump and have nothing to do with Trump,” he said, noting that all elections inflame tensions on campus. 

“Because of who Trump is and his style, he has set aflame campus life the way no one else would. He is always with us because he is in the 24-hour news cycle. And he’s positioned the media as his rival tribe. And you have to pick one or the other, and there’s no room for anyone to pick Trump some of the time and to disagree with him some of the time, which is what I do,” he said.

“It bifurcates us.”

Doug Ducey

Gov. Doug Ducey at Wednesday's event. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now 

Gov. Doug Ducey introduced Soave, who he called “a beacon of common-sense reporting.”

“He puts in the hard work and does the fundamentals. He asks the right questions. He does the research,” Ducey said.

“He articulates clearly and isn’t afraid to take a stand in the face of pressure.”

Soave praised the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership for promoting difficult conversations between people who disagree.

“This is exactly what a college campus is supposed to be about and has been lost at so many elite institutions.”

Top photo: Pundit, editor, author and columnist Robby Soave speaks about free speech and common sense on college campuses at the Memorial Union on Sept. 4, 2019. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now

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