Bob Graham, former Fla. governor and senator, to speak Monday

February 7, 2013

Reforming civics education into citizenship education is the topic with a former governor of Florida and United States senator speaks at Emporia State University.

Bob Graham delivers the Boertman Lecture at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11, in the KSTC Ballroom in the Memorial Union at Emporia State University. The event is free.

Graham has been a strong advocate of a learn-by doing approach to citizenship education since 1974 when Florida high school teachers challenged him to teach an 18-week class of his own, which he did.

“Imagine if basketball coaches tried to teach the sport by explaining it to the players, rather than by taking them onto the court to play the game,” Graham explained in his 2008 book, “America: The Owner’s Manual,” co-written with Chris Hand. “Civics is being taught in just that way, and it is no surprise that citizens can’t play when they step onto the court of democracy.”

Graham advocates an approach to citizenship education in which students work in groups to complete projects effecting policy change within the university, or at the local level. The teacher or professor teaches students the practical skills needed to identify decision makers, enlist allies, research the topic and take other steps necessary to make these changes happen. 

ESU Political Science professor Michael Smith has been teaching this curriculum and the “America” book in his Political Science 100 course for several years, with some remarkable success stories. 

“I am incredibly excited to have Bob coming to Emporia State,” Smith said. “His approach is the perfect blend of practical, real-world political science with the university’s mission of great teaching.”

A book signing will follow Graham’s lecture. He will spend the day visiting classes and touring the ESU campus.  His visit is part of the Department of Social Science’s Boertman Lecture Series, which is endowed in honor of C. Stewart Boertman, who taught at Emporia State University for 41 years.

Graham served two terms as governor of Florida and 18 years in the United States Senate. His interest in citizenship education began in the early 1970s while he was a state senator and chair of the Florida Senate Education Committee.

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