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University of Iowa News Release


July 13, 2009

UI College of Education helps teachers learn about U.S. Constitution July 15-22

Almost everyone can recite the opening words of the U.S. Constitution: "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union ... ." But how much do they really know about this document, the foundation and framework for the organization of the U.S. government?

Thirty educators from all five congressional districts in Iowa and surrounding states will attend the Iowa "We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution Teacher Institute" Wednesday, July 15, through Wednesday, July 22, at the John Pappajohn Business Building. The institute is hosted by the University of Iowa College of Education Department of Teaching and Learning.

The program focuses on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and it fosters civic competence and responsibility among elementary, middle and secondary school students in public and private schools, according to Gregory Hamot (left), a professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning in the UI College of Education.

"The program provides teachers with important resources such as textbooks, lesson plans and professional development opportunities so that they can help their students understand the history and principles of our constitutional government," Hamot said. "The teachers will be 'doing' the actual curriculum that they will be teaching next school year."

The program exists in all 50 states and the U.S. territories, but there are only three institutes per year, and Iowa was awarded one of them, Hamot said.

The teachers are mainly high school teachers, with some middle school teachers and one elementary school teacher. They were chosen by self-nomination or by recommendations from their school administrators or from the Center for Civic Education, the grantor for the institute. There is no cost for the teachers to participate.

"Given the need to understand our increasingly complex role as citizens of the United States and our position as members of a wider world community, the program offers our students an opportunity to learn about the constitution and participate in statewide and national mock congressional hearings so they can become engaged and educated citizens," Hamot said. "Any program that helps to promote the development of what Jefferson called the highest office of our nation, that of citizen, is commendable."

During the week, teachers will learn from John Patrick, professor emeritus, at Indiana University, an internationally prominent civic educator, as well as Jasmine Farrier, an associate professor of political science from the University of Louisville; and Richard Hardy, formerly a professor of political science at the University of Missouri and a University of Iowa alumnus. Iowa legislators have also been invited to drop in to the institute.

The culminating event is a mock congressional hearing from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 22, in the Pappajohn Business Building. The hearing will be based on contemporary issues concerning questions such as "What are the philosophical and historical foundations of the American political system?" "How did the framers create the Constitution?" and "How has the Constitution been changed to further the ideals contained in the Declaration of Independence?" just to name a few.

Mock trial judges include the following: Al Damico and Cary Covington, both UI political science professors in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS); Terrence Neuzil, Johnson county commissioner; and Bruce Fehn, associate professor in the UI College of Education.

Currently 22 years old, the program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education through an act of Congress and administered nationally by the Center for Civic Education. The UI College of Education is the home of the statewide annual "We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution Program."

Several studies by the Educational Testing Service indicate that students who used the curriculum "significantly outperformed comparison students."

"This ultimately helps teachers not only improve their understanding and teaching of the U.S. Constitution, but creates more engaged and educated citizens of Iowa and the nation," Hamot said.

For more information or a complete schedule, contact Hamot at 319-335-5382, 319-338-5891, or 319-594-3879.

For more information on the UI College of Education, visit

For more information on the Center for Civic Education, visit

MEDIA CONTACTS: Greg Hamot, College of Education,; Lois Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077,