Coalition of Freedom Advisory Board
In December, 2014, the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, received a $5.5 million grant from The John Templeton Foundation. The three-year grant created a national Coalition of Freedom to increase awareness of the rights set forth in the United States Constitution and other founding documents through an online Interactive Constitution; playwriting, short story and essay contests for student; a schedule of on-site and traveling Town Hall debates; and a contest that challenges public and independent school teachers to create plans to increase constitutional literacy in their schools. The contest includes prizes of up to $100,000 for the winning schools and $10,000 for the winning students.
A three-year project, the Coalition of Freedom is overseen by an ideologically balanced scholarly Advisory Board co-chaired by Lee Otis, senior vice president and faculty division director of The Federalist Society, and Caroline Frederickson, president of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. It also includes scholarly co-chairs Richard Pildes, Sudler Family Professor of Constitutional Law at New York University School of Law, and Nicholas Rosenkranz, professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center and senior fellow at the Cato Institute.
The project will produce the following:
The Coalition of Freedom will create the best nonpartisan Interactive Constitution on the web, commissioning the leading conservative, classical liberal, and liberal scholars in America to write white papers and explanatory material about all provisions of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The scholars will write a common statement about the settled law and history relating to each constitutional provision as well as separate statements making their distinctive perspectives clear. The Interactive Constitution will be developed in partnership with the College Board, which recently announced requirements that all SAT and Advanced Placement U.S. History and Government test takers study the Founding Documents.
PLAYWRITING AND ESSAY CONTESTS
Students in 6th, 8th and 12th grades in the Philadelphia region and then across the nation will have the opportunity to participate in either a playwriting or essay contest. The playwriting competition will ask students to imagine what Mrs. Elizabeth Willing Powel said next when Benjamin Franklin told her the Founders had created: “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.” For the essay competition, students will be asked questions such as: “What do people misunderstand or not know that is critical to protecting fundamental freedoms?” The winning playwright will have his/her work produced and presented at the National Constitution Center.
DEBATES, BLOG POSTS, AND PODCASTS WITH SCHOLARS
Leading conservative, classical liberal, and liberal scholars will participate in the National Constitution Center’s Town Hall debates, blog posts, and podcasts. In partnerships with organizations including The Federalist Society, the American Constitution Society, and Intelligence Squared U.S., the National Constitution Center will gain national reach through traveling debates throughout the United States. Americans will better understand the historic roots and current significance of their natural rights and liberties and be inspired to debate and defend them.
Through this grant, the National Constitution Center will also present short story and educator contests in the City of Philadelphia and throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that will promote the importance of the Founding Documents and constitutional literacy for today’s young people. The contests will offer cash prizes up to $10,000 for students and up to $100,000 for schools. The contests will be offered three times over the grant period – Fall 2015, Fall 2016, and Spring 2017.
SHORT-STORY WRITING CONTEST
Eleventh grade public and independent school students in Philadelphia will be invited to develop short stories based on the theme “Liberty and Virtue.” The student with the winning story will receive $10,000 and the runner-up will receive $5,000.
FIVE-YEAR LESSON PLANS
Educators in Philadelphia public and independent schools will be invited to develop five-year plans to improve constitutional literacy in their classrooms and earn cash prizes for their schools. The first place prize is $100,000, second place is $50,000, and third place is $25,000. The contest will expand in years two and three to include teachers throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
ABOUT THE JOHN TEMPLETON FOUNDATION
The John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality. The Foundation supports research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution, and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will. It encourages civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers, and theologians and between such experts and thepublic at large, for the purposes of definitional clarity and new insights. The Foundation’s vision is derived from the late Sir John Templeton’s optimism about the possibility of acquiring “new spiritual information” and from his commitment to rigorous scientific research and related scholarship. The Foundation's motto, “How little we know, how eager to learn,” exemplifies its support for open-minded inquiry and its hope for advancing human progress through breakthrough discoveries.