George Washington firmly believed in the importance of civic education.
“[T]he best means of forming a manly, virtuous and happy people, will be found in the right education of youth. Without this foundation, every other means, in my opinion, must fail…”
Letter to George Chapman, December 15, 1784
“…Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.”
First Annual Address, Friday, January 8, 1790
“Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.” Farewell Address, September 17, 1796
“[A] primary object of such a national institution should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic what species of knowledge can be equally important and what duty more pressing on its legislature than to patronize a plan for communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?”
Eighth Annual Message, December 7, 1796
In a Republic, civic education is the sine qua non, or indispensable ingredient to perpetuating our Constitutional form of government, the fruits of which are ordered liberty and felicity. Yet, it goes without saying that civic education is on the decline in America. Numerous studies and articles have focused on this deterioration in basic knowledge of the history and roots of our nation’s founding and source documents among students and citizens alike. Most would agree that if we are to remain as a free society and continue to govern ourselves as an enlightened and responsible citizenry, we must devote greater resources and efforts to educating the rising generation. There are many opportunities to become involved in this cause, extending from our own communities and local schools to higher education. Nowhere is this need more evident than at the college and university level, where in many circles American founding principles are often ignored, discarded, and even disdained in the curriculum and in public discourse. And, in places where there does exist a certain level of such education and acceptance in traditional American Heritage courses, frequently the offerings are limited and lack depth and substance in the areas of natural law principles (such as the writings of Locke & Sidney), the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, and Washington’s Farewell Address, along with principles of the U. S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The George Washington Center for Constitutional Studies (GWCCS) will be located in the heart of central Virginia, adjacent to the campus of an established, religious-oriented, liberal arts college located in Buena Vista, just hours from the homes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison — Southern Virginia University (SVU). The Center will focus its efforts in three areas: Teacher Education, Citizen Education, and Student Education.
The Mission of the Center and its primary objectives are as follows:
“The George Washington Center for Constitutional Studies is a nonpartisan academic institute that promotes Civic Education, and the instruction, study, and ideological defense of the Constitution of the United States of America, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence, using primary sources.”
“The Center offers classes and instruction on the Constitution, America’s founding documents, the lives and writings of the Founders, the Revolution and Founding of the American Republic, and will hold, sponsor or participate in events, conferences, seminars, workshops, symposia and related activities. It brings together students, teachers, scholars and citizens for consideration of constitutional principles, and issues relating to history, politics, and religion.”
The Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute (WJMI) has been engaged in teacher education in Virginia for the past ten years (since 2007). WJMI is pleased to announce that it will be affiliated with the George Washington Center for Constitutional Studies, primarily for purposes of co-sponsoring continuing education courses and workshops for secondary school teachers that teach Social Studies, Civics, U.S. Government and U.S. History.
We invite you to visit the Center’s new website at: georgewashingtoncenter.org, and to support our efforts to promote and strengthen “Civic Education in America.”