In America and throughout the world, the norms and institutions that provide the foundation of democracy are under assault. Self-government by “we the people” is demanding, requiring a degree of mutual respect, civility and understanding that the Shanker Institute remains committed to fostering. We also believe that citizen engagement, at every level, is both possible and central to rebuilding a strong and vibrant democracy "democracy is achieved or saved when a pro-democratic majority acts with enough unity and purpose to overcome those threats without fracturing." As one of our long-standing priorities, the Albert Shanker Institute is dedicated to research, dialogue, and partnerships that protect and strengthen democracy at home and abroad.
One of the Institute's new featured programs is Educating for Democratic Citizenship which features "Action Civics" lessons and related materials developed by a group of accomplished, experienced educators which we hope will improve teaching and learning of American History, Government, and Civics for teachers and students. This Action Civics approach supports students’ learning about the political process as they identify, research, and take informed action on issues that are important to them. These meaningful learning experiences help young people gain knowledge, develop skills, and grow their motivation for lifelong civic participation. These lessons can be found on a dedicated section of ShareMyLesson.
Educating for Democratic Citizenship
The Albert Shanker Institute launched its Educating for Democratic Citizenship Program which features "Action Civics" lessons and related materials developed by a group of accomplished, experienced educators which we hope will improve teaching and learning of American History, Government, and Civics for teachers and students. This Action Civics approach supports students’ learning about the political process as they identify, research, and take informed action on issues that are important to them. These meaningful learning experiences help young people gain knowledge, develop skills, and grow their motivation for lifelong civic participation. These lessons can be found on a dedicated section of ShareMyLesson.
The Intersection of Democracy and Public Education
The Shanker Institute and Education International are both celebrating milestone anniversaries in 2023. Both organizations share a common origin, Albert Shanker cofounded EI and was the inspiration for the ASI. To recognize the common origin and priorities of each organization, strengthening public education and committed to democracy, this Panel Discussion & Anniversary Celebration of the Albert Shanker Institute (25 Years) and Education International (30 Years) was held ahead of the International Summit on the Teaching Profession to take advantage of both organizations’ leaders being in Washington, DC at the same time.
AFT in Solidarity with Ukraine
Watch a discussion with AFT President Randi Weingarten who recently traveled to Ukraine; Bilingual Special Education Teacher Alexandra Hernandez, who spent the summer teaching Ukraine students in Poland, and Dr. Irwin Redlener, co-founder of the Ukraine Children's Action Project. Contribute to the AFT Disaster Relief Fund at: https://www.aft.org/aft-disaster-relief-fund. Watch the video.
In Defense of American Democracy
This all-day event, held at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. on September 17, 2019, was organized by the Albert Shanker Institute, the American Federation of Teachers, and Onward Together, the organization founded and led by Hillary Clinton.
The Crisis of Democracy Conference
We are experiencing an organic crisis of democracy, international in scope. This conference will draw together intellectuals and activists from across the globe to examine and explore different dimensions of that crisis.
Teaching Democratic Citizenship When Democracy is at Risk
Today, the U.S. finds itself in a crisis of democracy, in which the future of our liberties and our republican form of government hang in the balance.
Philanthropy and Democratic Education: Friends or Foes?
The Challenge for Democracy in the Middle East: The Art of the Possible
The Institute sponsored this conference on the challange of developing practical international programs to implement the traditional commitment of the labor movement to democracy and democratic institutions in the core Middle East region. It challenged participants to help conceive innovative, practical program approaches for the Middle East region.
Unionism and Democracy: The Experience, the Legacy, The Future
The Institute received a grant from the ILGWU Heritage Fund in April 2005 to help sponsor this three-day seminar aimed at educating new AFT leaders on the rationale and history behind labor’s support for democracy and worker rights in the world.
From Invisibility to Solidarity: An AAPI experience
Our guest author for AAPI Heritage Month is Jessica Tang, President of the Boston Teachers Union, an AFT vice president, co-chair of the AFT Asian American and Pacific Islander Task Force, and a Shanker Institute Board Member. This blog first appeared on AFTvoices.org on May 1, 2023.
While I have called Boston home for over two decades, I actually was born in Ohio and grew up in several states, including Pennsylvania, Indiana and New Jersey. What each of these states had in common throughout my years of attending school was that not once did I have an AAPI teacher. Nor did I ever learn about Asian American or Pacific Islander history.
Like so many AAPI students, I grew up feeling not too sure where I belonged — whether it was embarrassment as a child when I was told my home-cooked lunches “smelled” and “looked weird,” or when during a social studies lesson about an Asian country other students would look at me as if I were supposed to know all the answers. I had never been to Asia and certainly did not know about the dozens of countries with disparate cultures, languages and customs.
It wasn’t until college and later that I truly started to learn more about the Asian American diaspora — those who, like me, had families that immigrated to the United States and shared common experiences. Only then did I realize that I was not totally alone.
Beyond Brown: What We Must Protect
On the 69th Anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, our guest author is Leon W. Russell, Chair of the NAACP Board of Directors.
In 1948, the sixty-four-member national board of directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) endorsed its Special Counsel and head of the Legal Defense Fund Thurgood Marshall’s strategy to direct the organization’s legal advocacy efforts to racially integrate society through the education system. Following nearly two decades of legal battles and cases ranging from early childhood to graduate education, this decisive choice made by the leaders of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization set the stage for a victory in the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education, and subsequent victories in the fight for civil rights and social justice.
The all White-male Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, ruled that “Separate but equal educational facilities for racial minorities is inherently unequal, violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” The significance of their unanimous decision precipitated a journey and fight that has spanned nearly 70 years and continues as we seek to build an inclusive community rooted in liberation where all persons can exercise their civil and human rights without discrimination. But how do we continue to build on the work of those like Thurgood Marshall, Mary White Ovington, Roy Wilkins, Albert Shanker and countless others when we presently face extremist dissenters of equality who continue to use one of the most basic hallmarks of American life – education – as the battlefield to degenerate our society?
Lessons for Today from a Landmark New Jersey Desegregation Case
Next week, on May 17th, it will be the 69th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. In this case, the Supreme Court decided that “separate but equal” racial segregation was unconstitutional. This landmark case did not happen in isolation. Students, families, and educators from around the country had been challenging racial segregation. The Albert Shanker Institute is privileged to share the history and legacy of Hedgepeth-Williams v. Board of Education written by Kean University President Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D.
Education has the potential to be the great equalizer that truly changes the trajectory of people's lives. The struggle to realize that potential has a long history here in New Jersey. Looking back, we know Black activists were demanding civil rights reform in education here in the Garden State more than a decade before the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision desegregated public schools across the nation in 1954. Concerted efforts by the NAACP, other advocates and mothers weary from discrimination in education led to legal battles that paved the way for changes and pivotal federal legislation. One of the precedent-setting cases that helped the arc of the moral universe bend toward justice, to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was New Jersey’s Hedgepeth and Williams v. Board of Education.
In 1943, two mothers from Trenton, Gladys Hedgepeth and Berline Williams, attempted to enroll their children in a neighborhood middle school. The school, the women were told, wasn’t “built for Negroes.” As a result, they enrolled their children in a Blacks-only school more than two miles away while simultaneously filing lawsuits against the Board of Education of Trenton. Represented by Robert Queen of the NAACP, the case made its way to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled intentional segregation in public schools to be a violation of New Jersey law. Schools in New Jersey would no longer be segregated.
SCOTUS Crisis of Confidence: Chief Justice Roberts Must Act
Last month the Albert Shanker Institute hosted a virtual event to discuss the Supreme Court. The interest in our country’s highest court has grown dramatically over the last decade. Unfortunately, this interest is grounded in scandal and a serious decline in confidence.
While the headlines about the latest Clarence Thomas scandal are new, the crisis of our nation’s highest court is not. Just last winter the Pew Research Center documented a steep 15 percentage point drop in favorability in the Supreme Court of the United States in only three years, from August 2019 to January 2022. In fact, that same Pew research article pointed out that the “current views of the court are among the least positive in surveys dating back nearly four decades
Indeed, this Supreme Court integrity crisis did not start with Justice Thomas, although he has contributed to it mightily in his time on the high court with billionaire conservative friends lavishing him with gifts and his wife Ginni’s role in the January 6th insurrection. This crisis isn’t just about Justice Thomas. There are unanswered questions about Justice Neil Gorsuch’s property sale disclosure issue and conflict of interest concerns around Chief Justice John Roberts’ wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts’ role as recruiter for top law firms that argue in front of the Supreme Court.
The Albert Shanker Institute at 25
The Shanker Institute turns 25 years old this month!
The Shanker Institute was formed in 1998 to honor the life and legacy of AFT President Al Shanker. The organization’s by-laws commit it to four fundamental principles—vibrant democracy, quality public education, a voice for working people in decisions affecting their jobs and their lives, and free and open debate about all of these issues.
From the beginning the Institute has brought together influential leaders and thinkers from business, labor, government, and education from across the political spectrum. ASI continues to sponsor research, promotes discussions, and seek new and workable approaches to the issues that shape the future of democracy, education, and unionism.
AFT Solidarity with Ukraine
“We have a long history of showing up. Showing up for freedom, showing up for democracy, showing up for education, both here and abroad.”
This is what American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told Nicole Wallace of MSNBC News about why she led a delegation to Lviv, Ukraine this month to meet with Ukrainian educators, trade unionists, medical workers and others engaged in the life and death struggle for Ukraine’s survival against Russian aggression.
The AFT’s history of showing up is longstanding in Central and Eastern Europe. It dates to efforts before, during and after World War II to save trade unionists from fascist and communist tyranny in the region. As well, the AFT was the most active international union among AFL-CIO and international trade secretariat affiliates supporting the Solidarity trade union movement in Poland, both during the decade of martial law repression as well as the country’s dramatic transition from Soviet-imposed communism to democracy in 1988-89.
The First Fifteen Days: Building Community Through Civic Experiences
In the third post of Shanker Institute Constitution Day 2022 series, guest author Shawn Fisch, a UFT Teacher Center Instructional Coach at Long Island City High School and a Shanker Institute Civics Fellow, asserts that the skills practiced by the Founding Fathers in building a consensus for a new model of government is the same thing teachers repeat each year with classroom culture and norms.
There is no other feeling quite like the first day of school. A bunch of strangers come together from different places with different ideas and have to create a classroom/school where everyone can work together. In a sense, it is similar to the issue facing our new nation with the Constitution. How do we ensure that the values of the country are reflected in our curriculum? The answer is civics. The way we feel on the first day of school (for students and staff alike) can impact how we feel about our classrooms, our schools, and our communities. This year back to school was a statement of fact. Many students were literally returning back to a physical school building for the first time in years. It has been fifteen days since the start of the school year at Long Island City High School (LICHS). I’d like to take you on a journey with me looking at those 15 days through the lens of civics.
Education for Democracy
From 2005, Unionism and Democracy, sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute in cooperation with the AFT International Affairs Department (edited). Given the fight for democracy today—given the assault on universal suffrage, on workers’ rights, on a free media, and an independent judiciary—it is worth revisiting this piece.
Within the AFT’s motto—“Education for Democracy, Democracy in Education”—are several important ideas. One is that the common good is served by the creation, through a public education system, of an informed and knowledgeable citizenry. That is why post-colonial Americans first agreed to pay for the education of other people’s children. Second is the idea that, beyond the democratic content of such an education, the public school system—as a common place for educating all children equally—transmits and promotes a democratic sensibility and culture. And third is the idea that if education is for democracy, then education system should be democratic itself and that free teachers unions can play a unique role promoting democracy, not only in the classroom but in the workplace. Teachers and other educational employees should, therefore, be fully empowered through the unions of their choice and that they control.
I Don’t Like History... But I Love Civics
In the second post of the Shanker Institute's Constitution Day 2022 Blog Series, guest author James Dawson, a UFT Teacher Center Instructional Coach at Paul L. Dunbar Middle School in the Bronx and Shanker Civics Fellow, contends that by infusing the concept of civic readiness into lessons, we are able to impart civic knowledge while encouraging civic engagement.
When I first started coaching my school's social studies team, I was excited and naive. Excited by the chance to share my enthusiasm for (and, if I flatter myself, my considerable knowledge of) history Old World and New, ancient and modern. I was surprised to discover that my retention of the latter was considerably less than I had envisaged; I was surprised and dismayed that only a few students shared my enthusiasm. The narratives of the human experience that had drawn me to my history classes, my teachers’ descriptions of the earthier and less celebrated sides of well-known historical figures, their ponderings on the “could-have-beens” that would changed the course of the river of time, enthralled me.
9/11 from New York to Jerusalem
Guest Author Sam Shube is the CEO of Hagar -- Jewish Arab Education for Equality, which operates the only bilingual, Arab Jewish school in the southern Israel. He also established Scout Troop Adam, Israel's first integrated scout troop. Originally published in The Times of Israel, September 12, 2022..
It’s been 21 years, but the Manhattan skyline remains tragically orphaned. Visiting New York on 9/11 brings back echoes of the panic and the fear that changed something, deep down, in the collective consciousness, the angst that stripped away our certitudes in the permanence of democratic life. I remember trying, desperately, to call the continental United States from my office in Jerusalem, eager for the slightest piece of news about my older brother who worked on the 66th floor of 2 World Trade Center. Communications, of course, were down, and it took several hours until I heard that he had surfaced, covered in soot, in lower Manhattan.