Civic Education Project Launched


finalmegaphoneThe Indiana Bar Foundation and Hoosier State Press Association will launch a civic education project this month, “A Democracy’s Primer,” to assist Hoosiers in understanding how government works.
Judges, lawyers and educators will write articles that Indiana newspapers may publish, most likely as op-ed pieces. Two current state Supreme Court justices are committed to contribute, along with former Chief Justice Randall Shepard.

“A democracy works best when citizens understand how the system operates and how they can impact decisions,” said Nancy Grossman, president of the HSPA Foundation and publisher of both the Salem Leader and Salem Democrat newspapers.

“Newspaper readers are generally the thought leaders in a community, so we’re happy to help improve the level of civic engagement in the state.

“Our entire community thrives when citizens become more informed and engaged,” said Kenneth J. Allen, A Valparaiso attorney who is president of the Indiana Bar Foundation.

“I hope this series encourages more Hoosiers, from small towns to urban centers, to become more civically involved. Not only will this benefit our state and local communities, but greater civic involvement will enrich the lives of all who participate – it’s a genuinely uplifting experience.”

There will be a trio of articles available prior to the November election with the planned subject matter:
– The Power of the Ballot Box – the importance of the vote with some historical examples of how one’s vote can make a difference. Sidebars will indicate how to register or how to obtain an absentee ballot.
– Why the Founding Fathers Created the Electoral College? – An explanation on why this system was installed rather than just a popular vote. Spoiler Alert – it was part of the compromise to protect small states from rule by the larger population states.
– How did we end up with a two-party system? – George Washington hated political parties, but they aren’t going away. Why do we have primarily a two-party system when so many other countries have multiple parties requiring coalitions to elect a prime minister?

Between the November election and the January start of the next legislative session, planned articles include:
– The Role of the Legislature; The Role of the Executive Branch; The Role of the Judiciary – Three articles examining the function of the three branches of government in Indiana.
– The Balances between the Three Branches of Government – This will go into the tensions between the General Assembly, Governor, and Supreme Court as each serves as a check on the power of the other branches.

For 2017, additional columns will address:
– The Tension Between State and Federal Jurisdiction in Law-Making – What lines are drawn between what state legislatures can do to shape public policy and areas where the federal government stakes a claim of authority.
– The Media’s Role as a Watchdog in Our Democracy – Why the First Amendment is a necessity in protecting freedom from government actions.
– Individual Rights v. The Common Good – Legislatures often struggle with the question of when is it necessary for the state to act in controlling the behavior of individuals, or corporations.
– How the Northwest Ordinance Shaped Indiana? – It was the Northwest Ordinance that laid out the plan for statehood, public education, township government units, etc.

Two articles, one addressing How Civil Lawsuits Operate?, and one titled How Criminal Trials Operate?, will illustrate that courts don’t really function like “Judge Judy” or “The Good Wife.”
This is not the first collaborative effort between the two organizations – the two foundations were involved in the Civic Health Index, and both lawyers and HSPA members often volunteer for youth education programs about constitutional principles in local and state competitions.