Message to Alumni and Parents — August 11, 2016

Dear alumni and parents,

I write to share news about Bowdoin’s “Founding Principles: American Government in Theory and Action” video series. The now completed fifteen-part series of short, engaging videos offers a comprehensive overview of how American government was designed, how it is supposed to work, and how citizens can participate.

Recent studies have shown that many young Americans have little understanding of civics and American government. According to retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and former Senator John Glenn, this lack of knowledge is affecting participation by young people in the democratic process.

“In the most recent election, young voters in the United States ranked 138th in voter turnout among democratic nations. That ranking is unacceptable for the world’s largest democracy and undercuts everything our founders worked for,” wrote O’Connor and Glenn in an op-ed column last year. They urged educators to teach civics in ways that are relevant to digital learners rather than just adding more classes. “Founding Principles” is Bowdoin’s contribution to these efforts.

Hosted and written by Andrew Rudalevige, Bowdoin’s Thomas Brackett Reed Professor of Government, “Founding Principles” is offered by the College as a public service. All fifteen segments are available on the Bowdoin website, and they will be broadcast individually on public television in Maine (MPBN) beginning this Sunday evening (August 14) and continuing through election day in November. We have also made the programs available to New Hampshire Public Television and Vermont PBS.

We believe the series can be a valuable educational tool for anyone interested in teaching and learning more about American government. To this end, “Founding Principles” has been introduced to school districts, various state departments of education, and to high school social studies teachers here in Maine and elsewhere. We are pleased to report that the response has been positive. Teachers began to use the series during the spring, and more plan to incorporate it into their classrooms this fall. We will continue our outreach and hope to introduce the series to a wider national audience over the coming weeks and months.

I hope you will consider the series and share it with friends and colleagues for whom this material is of interest, both personally and professionally.


Clayton S. Rose