In planning the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson listed the teaching of “the principles and structure of government” as the first objective of public higher education. The purpose, Jefferson made clear, was to educate thoughtful and engaged citizens of the new nation. In the core curriculum for his “Academical Village,” he called for the study of “Government, Political Economy, Law of Nature and Nations, and History” to be “interwoven with Politics and Law.” The state of Missouri later followed Jefferson’s precepts by incorporating civic education into the missions of its public schools, colleges, and universities, with state law requiring “regular courses of instruction in the Constitutions of the United States and of the state of Missouri, and in American history and institutions…”
While the University of Missouri has maintained that mission, civic education still needs to be revitalized both on our campus and around the country, and centers such as the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy can play a major role in addressing this need by re-envisioning civic education for the twenty-first century. We are committed to pursuing excellence and thoroughness in the study of constitutional traditions and the complicated history of democracy in the United States and around the globe, and we have accomplished a lot in our short time on campus. Through our on- and off-campus undergraduate programs, educational outreach initiatives in the community and around the state, academic workshops, fellowships, faculty scholarship and teaching, and public events, the Kinder Institute has refocused attention and resources on the subjects that Jefferson tried to build into the heart of university education.
In laying the groundwork for a new intellectual community on the University of Missouri campus, we have taken a holistic approach, combining many aspects of academic life that are often sealed off from one another. Within the Kinder Institute, we have brought together different disciplines and departments, forged connections between teaching and research, connected faculty members with members of the community, and united scholars of different ideological perspectives, all in an atmosphere of collegial fellowship. There is much work left to do, but the last few years have marked a promising start to this important endeavor. Today, the Kinder Institute is poised to become a national leader in civic education and absolutely unique in the civility of discourse with which we function.
For questions about the Kinder Institute’s public programs, please contact Jordan Pellerito, Program and Multimedia Marketing Coordinator, at email@example.com. Questions about undergraduate programming can be directed to Kinder Institute Director of Undergraduate Studies Thomas Kane, KaneTC@missouri.edu