Got Debt? What’s New and Exciting with the America’s Future Initiative
By Cecilia M. Orphan, National Manager, American Democracy Project
Most people are well aware of the abysmal state of the national budget. Each year it seems as though the debt grows without any real solutions being offered for fixing this escalating burden. The America’s Future initiative, whose concern is primarily with the fiscal future and health of our democracy, grew out of a partnership with Andrew Yarrow of Public Agenda. Andrew is one of the foremost experts on our national debt, and enthusiastically agreed to partner with the American Democracy Project (ADP). We launched the initiative in the fall of 2008 with eight campuses. Click here to view a map of the America’s Future campuses.
Since we’ve launched this initiative, the America’s Future campuses have engaged in an inspiring and innovative set of activities and projects with the goal of informing their students about the national debt and deficit. Below is a sampling of this work.
Emporia State University (ESU): During Constitution Day, ESU will host candidate debates. This has been a vitriolic primary season for Kansas, and this event should be both exciting and informative. Students from ESU have formulated a series of provocative questions to ask the candidates about the national debt and deficit. ESU will be using Twitter to track the debates so those students and community members who are not able to attend in person will be able to follow along. (Information contributed by Rob Catlett.)
Keene State College: Mel Netzhammer, provost of Keene, has put the college’s resources behind three ADP initiatives: Deliberative Polling, America’s Future and eCitizenship. There has been strong institutional support for the America’s Future initiative at Keene State. Keene created a financial literacy program for undergraduate students to learn about personal finance and how to manage budgets. In addition, faculty members from Keene are developing curriculum that will be presented to and modified by secondary and middle school teachers during a series of summer institutes. This curriculum will be disseminated to classrooms in the K-12 system in Keene, New Hampshire. The guiding philosophy of the creators of the institutes is to incorporate big ideas about what we owe each other and the meaning of life with practical questions about personal finance, ultimately culminating in a consideration of issues about national finance and budgetary matters. (Information contributed by Wes Martin.)
Stephen F. Austin State University: Stephen F. Austin has been taking a different approach to educating undergraduates about American budgetary issues. They are conducting ongoing assessment of the impacts of America’s Future programming on undergraduate students. Freshmen are surveyed to determine their knowledge about these issues. Then the same students are surveyed again after exposure to curriculum that explores the issues surrounding the national debt and deficit. The goal is to measure the impact on students of this curriculum. So far, this assessment has revealed gains in knowledge and understanding about the national debt and deficit.
In addition to this assessment work, Stephen F. Austin has hosted a series of events to build awareness about the national debt. Concord Coalition has been invited to campus to give presentations about different approaches to mitigating the effects of the national debt. In addition, a version of IOUSA was shown to 350 students. Andrew Yarrow visited Stephen F. Austin and gave a riveting lecture that presented another set of approaches to solving the debt problem. Finally, close to 70 students participated in intergenerational dialogues that focused on the national debt. (Information contributed by Cindy Pressley and Steve Galatas.)
To read more about the America’s Future initiative, please visit this website.
What are you doing to engage students on this important issue? If you have an interesting program, initiative, or curricular approach to educating students about the national debt and deficit, please contribute your example to the comments section of this blog post.