Civic Learning That “Goes Well Beyond the High School Civics Class”

Greater Focus On Civic Education Demands Collaborative Efforts To Improve, Expand, Energize Civic Learning That “Goes Well Beyond The High School Civics Class”

December 4, 2019

FOR RELEASE: Wednesday, December 4. 2019
CONTACT: Patrick Riccards (@Eduflack) | | (703) 298-8283

Major National Research Initiative Led By Woodrow Wilson Foundation President Seeks To Move From Civic Education To Civic Learning, Bringing Philanthropic Community Together For Common Goals

PRINCETON, N.J. (December 4, 2019) – Seeking to spark enthusiasm and engagement among funders who are interested in revitalizing our system of civic education, Rajiv VInnakota, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, today released the findings of a major research initiative he spearheaded examining the current state of civic education in America.

Funded through the generous support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Charles Koch Foundation, and other funders, Vinnakota’s research—titled “From a Civic Education to a Civic Learning Ecosystem: A Landscape Analysis and the Case for Collaboration”—sought to better understand how the work of funders, policymakers, educators, researchers, and nonprofit organizations comes together and interacts to produce the current system of civic education.

“I hope this landscape effort sparks a much needed conversation about the status of learning in America and leads to action where appropriate,” Hewlett Foundation Director of Education Kent McGuire said.

“Our study provides a framework for conceptualizing and discussing shared goals and urges funders, educators, researchers and the general public to develop a new, more robust conception of civic learning that goes well beyond the high school civics class,” Vinnakota said. “Thanks to the support of the Hewlett Foundation, Koch Foundation, and many other philanthropies we have captured the state of the field so that we can collectively identify pressing needs, and launch collaborative efforts to improve, expand and energize civic learning in our country.”

“Civics education empowers you to know your rights, freely express yourself, and lead the change you want to see in the world,” said Charles Koch Institute Director of Free Expression Sarah Ruger. “This research helps map out the current civics education landscape and offers a richer understanding for those committed to enhancing opportunities for students.” The foundation supports scholars and partners developing programs and undertaking research that can help every person realize their full potential.

Additional Materials

From a Civic Education to a Civic Learning Ecosystem: A Landscape Analysis and the Case for Collaboration

Download the Report

The report’s authors offered several important conclusions regarding the current state of civics education, including:

  • The hundreds of disparate organizations currently in the space express almost uniform consensus that the current system of civic education needs to be reimagined and rebuilt for the 21st century;
  • An improved system of civic education needs to be designed to produce citizens who are well-informed, productively engaged in working for the common good, and hopeful about our democracy.
  • The current focus on civic education needs to be expanded to look at civic learning, including interactions in families, community activities, online, and throughout k-12 and higher education.
  • The civic learning field must be developed, coordinating multiple organization and individuals around common goals and the conditions needed to succeed.
  • With so many funders, nonprofit organizations, companies, and community groups seeking to engage in civic learning efforts, collaboration is the only way forward to avoid the pitfalls new movements often face.

“There is a broad consensus that we need to fundamentally rethink and enrich the ways we prepare young people to be successful citizens in a democracy, but until those who work in this space have a clear understanding of the contours of the space and a way to talk about goals and concerns using a shared vocabulary, systemic change is unlikely,” the report concluded.

Vinnakota and his research team reviewed leading research on civic education and social and emotional learning in schools and colleges; looked at civic education policies in all 50 states; attended conferences on civic education and/or democracy-building; and also interviewed more than 100 experts who are engaged in civic education. The full report, as well as an interactive, open-source wiki for continuing to gather information of best and promising practice in the field, can be found at

For more information on the report or wiki, please contact Patrick Riccards at or 703-298-8283.


About the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation
Founded in 1945, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation ( identifies and develops the nation’s best minds to meet its most critical challenges. The Foundation supports its Fellows as the next generation of leaders shaping American society.

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