Our core program is a seminar-discussion-debate forum where civic-minded adults, college and university students and even younger students in the fifth grade when most of us were first introduced to our American founding can “learn history by living history.” We want the learning and experiencing of our history to be exciting and innovative, not core teaching to the test. We want to engage Americans of all ages to become involved and to make a difference.
We view it important to provide a forum to discuss current issues and challenges facing our nation and our local communities in a safe setting where participants respect differing views and opinions and each other. Such a setting can be the continuing education programs of local universities and colleges, after school programs for younger students, and for adults places of worship, senior centers, libraries, book clubs and other local civic-minded institutions. Or it can simply be a gathering “around the kitchen table” of neighbors and friends.
Entitled: THE IDEA OF AMERICA: OUR VALUES, OUR LEGACY, OUR FUTURE we have developed resource materials, study guides, videos, role playing historic based games and other creative means of expanding our understanding of our history and our civics and their relevance to challenges of today. We focus on open debate and discussion, not academic lectures or “Ted Talks.”
We begin with OUR VALUES that gave birth to our nation and are shaping our future. We discuss a number of values given at our founding and values embraced today as determined by academic research institutes, primarily the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan, the world’s leading academic based survey research center. We focus on three of the most important values that have defined who we are as Americans:
We well recognize that our founding values were initially defined in terms of human rights. Rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But those rights were quite limited to white property-owning males. Slaves, women and children had no rights. OUR LEGACY discusses how those rights were expanded over the course of our history to be more inclusive. We tell the stories of those who developed our legacy. We deal with the challenges and trials and conflicts as that legacy was advanced. And we recognize that while we have made a lot of progress in advancing the values and the rights to be more inclusive, we have long way to go. We continue to confront racism, sexism, segregation. And so we must confront our future.
OUR FUTURE focuses on three specific case studies. Case Study One—Our Economy: A Legacy of Growth and Opportunity. Case Study Two—Education: The Great Equalizer. Case Study Three—We the People: A Nation of Immigrants. But our program is flexible in defining other case studies. Many of the programs that have been run over the past several years chose to define case studies on climate change, health care, racism.
We are further flexible in providing suggested study guides for programs ranging from a few sessions around the kitchen table to six more structured seminars for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes program at colleges and universities. But our programs can be readily used by home-schooling or individuals simply wanting to advance their own understanding of our founding and our history.
GET INVOLVED! It is easy to get involved and engaged in our educational outreach program. First, decide what form of the program you wish to engage. Second, identify your desired setting, be it within a local elementary after school program that you would initiate or an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program at your nearby college and university if it is offered. If it is not offered, then volunteer to lead such a program. All colleges and universities that have Osher programs (and there are 123 nation-wide that are potentials for you to become really engaged in a very exciting and meaningful way.) Or simply gather a group of friends around your kitchen table or book club or organize a program in your local senior center or library or place of worship. Third, access resource material, study guides, videos and other program support material through our website. Fourth, post announcements in your local coffee shop and elsewhere, post invitations to become involved through your social media or simply recruit by word of mouth and emails.