From the heated debating floor of Independence Hall, to the bloodied fields of Gettysburg and the empowering steps of the Lincoln Memorial, American history is far more than just dates and speeches. The Congressional Academy for American History and Civics took students on an exploration of the American experience with a careful study of three of America's most critical eras through the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address and, Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.
Spending twelve days in Washington, DC, students immersed themselves in our nation's capital as well as venturing out on day trips to historic Philadelphia and Gettysburg. All the while, participants gained insight into America's past by visiting the actual locations of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the battlefields of Gettysburg where Lincoln grieved for our splintered nation, and the steps where Martin Luther King, Jr. cried out for the payment of an overdue promise.
Engrossed in the study of the debates of America's founders, and leaders split apart by the Civil War and later civil rights, participants studied early examples of American civic leadership, challenging themselves to understand the arguments and missions of these great eras in order to gain the invaluable lessons that good citizenship requires thoughtfulness and purpose.
With three vital documents, three powerful locations, and three decisive eras, the Congressional Academy demonstrated how events coupled with America's fundamental ideas shape our national identity, influence the debates over the challenges our nation faces today, and still remain at the heart of all political discussion. The Congressional Academy took history out of textbooks and placed it into the lives of its participants, allowing them to understand that the choices made by our founders affect us today and will continue to affect our future.
One hundred to one hundred and twelve high school juniors were selected to participate in each of the Congressional Academies. They spent their time in three daily lectures and engaging in discussions with smaller groups of 28 students twice a day. They also visited important sites in and around Washington connected with their studies.
College Credit. Students received 3 hours of undergraduate credit from Ashland University. This credit could be used toward an undergraduate degree offered by Ashland University or could be transferred to another institution.
The Ashbrook Center at Ashland University. This Congressional Academy was developed by the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University, an organization experienced in offering content-based programs in American history and civics for students and teachers across the nation. The Ashbrook Center's mission is to teach the meaning and significance of America.
The Ashbrook Scholar Program is a unique combination of academic rigor with practical political experience. Ashbrook Scholars are invited not merely to attend the lectures and seminars of the Ashbrook Center, but to engage in them. But more than that, they are given the opportunity to meet in private off-the-record discussions with every guest of the Ashbrook Center, including the annual dinner speakers. Ashbrook Scholars are chosen from each incoming class of freshmen and remain in the program throughout their tenure at Ashland University. While at Ashland, Ashbrook Scholars participate in the programs of the Ashbrook Center, fulfill the scholarship requirements for Ashbrook Scholars, and receive a $2000 renewable scholarship based solely on merit. Ashbrook Scholars are expected to maintain high academic standards and exemplify excellence of character. Ashbrook Scholars must maintain a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA and attend all Ashbrook Center events. They must also show satisfactory progress toward a major or minor in Political Science, History, International Studies, or a major in Integrated Social Studies Education. They must also complete a full year of Western Civilization history courses, as well as write a Statesmanship Thesis.
In 2006, the Ashbrook Center was selected by the U.S. Department of Education to oversee one of two Presidential Academies for American History and Civics. This five-year, $3 million grant allowed 50 teachersone from each stateto attend a three-week summer program with one week in Philadelphia, one week in Gettysburg, and one week in Washington, DC. Further information about the Presidential Academy is available on-line at: PresidentialAcademy.org.
The Congressional Academy is designed to complement the curriculum of the Presidential Academy. Both academies are built around the same three documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and King's "I Have a Dream" speech. The Presidential Academy provided teachers an opportunity to engage in an in-depth study of these important turning points in American history. The Congressional Academy provided a model for how these themes can be applied in the secondary classroom.
The Ashbrook Center at Ashland University provides a strong and vital institutional home with a tradition of emphasizing the importance of American history and civics, complete office support and highly qualified supervisory and organizational capabilities, and lengthy and ongoing experience in providing classroom and on-line resources in American history and civics.
Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio, is a private university that offers a wide range of liberal arts and professional degrees. Ashland University is home to 2,000 full-time undergraduate students.
Ashland University was founded in 1878 by the Brethren Church to offer courses in the arts and sciences and in the professions. The spirit of the founders was summed up in the 1884-85 catalog which said that the courses "would develop students intellectually, but not at the expense of the heart; that rich and poor meet on the grounds of equality; that worth, not dress, is valued and respected; that economy, not extravagance, is fostered; and that a desire for usefulness, not show, is promoted." This commitment to a useful and satisfying education has continued from that time.
The Congressional Academies for American History and Civics Education Program. Originally introduced in the United States Senate by Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, the Congressional Academies are a part of the American History and Civics Education Act of 2004. This program supports the establishment of Congressional Academies for Students of American History and Civics for students to develop a broader and deeper understanding of these subject matters.
This Academy was administered by the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University as a result of a 2007 grant from the U.S. Department of Education.