Federalism & Civic Education

Federalism & Civic Education

Schools of Democracy: American Federalism and Civic Education Workshop

See photos of the conference.

Federalism has often been regarded as a key ingredient in the formation of good citizenship in the United States.  As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor once observed, the American division of vertical powers “enhances the opportunity of all citizens to participate in representative government, [which] is a cornerstone of American democracy.”

This sentiment is rooted deeply in American political thought and history. It springs from the hopes of the Anti-Federalists, who viewed the small republic as a “school of citizenship as much as a scheme of government.” And it was a key part of the Federalist vision for a new “compound republic,” which allowed for a compromise between the advantages of a large extended republic and the survival of distinct political communities, where citizens would conduct their politics, deliberate on national policy, and learn to practice “democratic citizenship."

Over the course of American history, this way of thinking about the virtues of federalism has endured, although it faces new challenges. Do these hopes for federalism as a “school of citizenship” hold up today?

The Workshop

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

  • What is the role of the national government in providing a national vision for civic education?
  • What are states doing to promote civic education?
  • What are the advantages or disadvantages of strengthening state and local institutions from a civic education perspective?
  • What are the dangers of nationalization and centralization for civil society in America?
  • Is there any evidence that federal systems fare better than centralized unitary states in various measures of civic health?

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

Conference Schedule

Friday, Nov. 3, 2023 

8:45–9:00 a.m.  |  FL 305  |  Introduction

9:00–10:40 a.m.  |  FL 305  |  Session 1

10:40–11:00 a.m.  |  Break

11:00 a.m.–12:45 p.m.  |  FL 305  |  Session 2

12:45–1:40 p.m.  |  Lunch Break

1:40–3:00 p.m. |  FL 305  |  Session 3

3:00–3:15 p.m.  |  FL 305  |  Closing Remarks



  • Christina Bambrick, University of Notre Dame
  • Andy Bibby, Utah Valley University
  • Ann Bowman, Texas A&M University
  • Robert Burton, Utah Valley University
  • John Dinan, Wake Forest University
  • Josh Dunn, University of Tennessee–Knoxville
  • Sanford Kessler, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, North Carolina State University
  • Michael Rebell, Columbia University
  • Troy Smith, Brigham Young University–Hawaii 
  • George Thomas, Claremont McKenna College
  • Kenneth Wong, Brown University