Dates: July 15-26, 2024
Location: Detroit, MI
Primary Site: Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs
Application Deadline: March 5, 2024
Stipend: $2,200

The availability of social studies and civic education in K-12 schools and teacher education programs is diminishing with significant costs and consequences. In an era of mass unrest and political polarization, there is an increasing recognition of the need for a robust civic education that grounds students in studies of our nation’s past to better understand and analyze the complexity of how our government operates. Indeed, these studies of the past create unique opportunities for young people to develop a capacious understanding of what civic participation and community building means. This institute will engage participants in historical, legal, philosophical, sociological, and pedagogical questions about democratic governance and participation through careful study of the Supreme Court’s decision in Milliken v. Bradley, the history that preceded it, and the educational, social, and political developments that followed it. Historians and education scholars have long positioned Milliken as the bookend to possibilities for inclusive democracy opened by Brown, but the case is rarely, if ever, taught in schools. Teachers in this institute will explore Milliken through the dynamism of Detroit’s educational history. Not only was Detroit the site of the Milliken decision, but it has been home to a diverse array of social movements which have employed a wide range of political frameworks in the struggle for access and equity in schooling. By examining the interweaving threads of law and social movements in Detroit during the twentieth century, participants will consider the full-breadth of what civic engagement can mean as well as how public policy and law shape their everyday lives..

Detroit provides a uniquely powerful site to explore these questions. For many, the Motor City has become a place to study industrial and educational decline. However, Detroit has been and remains a city full of people organizing together to dream of new possibilities and bring them to fruition. Studying the varied theories of social change produced by and the efforts undertaken by ordinary people in Detroit to build better schools in the hopes of constructing a more inclusive democracy upends these conventional narratives. This institute eschews this traditional declension narrative to focus on how Black Detroiters envisioned social and educational change. It contextualizes these visions within major public policy changes and landmark legal decisions to consider Detroit’s successes and struggles within the framework of American democracy. These diverse movements compel inquiry into the space between what public policy proclaims and how its implementation structures our daily lives. Moreover, the panoply of possibilities posed by different organizations and collectives in Detroit open new pedagogical directions for teachers interested in cultivating democratic dispositions in their students.