- Domain Names Owner
- United States of America
Closed on January 2, 2017, due to not a single valid response.
The petition at the bottom of this page is intended only for the signatures of University of Florida (UF) students who are interested in creating a UF Civics Club. Once this new UF club is established, it will be encouraged to gradually expand and also become the home base for a Florida Civics Club and National Civics Club. And if I'm as pleased with their progress as I think I'll be, the UF Civics Club's members will subsequently be given offers for other free domain names such as CitizenCosponsors.Org, IssueOfTheYear.Org, MidtermPlatforms.Org, NationalDebate.Org, and NationalReferendums.Org that aren't for sale at any price—just like the ones in this initial offer.
Acquiring free domain names might not seem important to some of you at first, but bear in mind that speculators (who sometimes reap $millions by reselling them) have been buying them up ever since the first one was registered in 1985. Being willing to pay such a huge sum for a domain name might seem ridiculous to anyone who has never created a website. For those who have, however, it's pretty much common knowledge that the more accurately a domain name reflects a website's subject matter or name, the more that it could help to increase that site's first-time and/or repeat visitors all by itself. And due to the fact that the total number of registered domain names has risen to over 330 million, the value of a domain name that can enable a website to stand out amidst this growing clutter has grown as well. For instance, the price for the "Com" version of the first one I bought 14 years ago (Amendment28.Org) has risen to $10,000.
I have focused on acquiring civic engagement types of domain names that could potentially be used to help us rise above the intense partisanship and political gridlock that has developed in our country, and effectively work together towards the achievement of social and governmental goals we hold in common. My intention has been to hold on to each one of these impactful domain names until I could find an organization or individual I believed could be relied upon to make good use of it. And I never planned to make a profit, but to donate them or charge only what it costs me to purchase and maintain their ownership—which has been about $100 apiece. (Ownership of domain names is not permanent. Each one must be officially registered, which is paid for in yearly increments. And if a registration isn't renewed in time, one's ownership of that domain name is terminated.)
Unfortunately, after more than a decade of seriously examining and gradually eliminating every existing organization I thought might be capable of putting one or more of my domain names to good use, I came up empty. That's when I starting thinking that it will take the creation of an entirely new type of nationwide organization that is capable of handling all of them. And that's what I'm giving you the opportunity to do.
The rest of this background section will be devoted to explaining what has driven me to attach such importance to the creation of a nationwide system of civics clubs; why I've chosen to trust such relatively young and inexperienced individuals as college students with turning that vision into reality; and some specific projects I recommend the members of those clubs undertake over the next few years.
Although Mr. Dreyfuss did an outstanding job of describing the problem and its seriousness, this video didn't explain what he meant by such statements as "what you have to do is get it back;" and that we need to "relearn the tools of reason, logic, clarity, dissent, civility, and debate;" However, the following statement and video from the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools covers that quite well:
"In recent years, civic learning has been increasingly pushed aside. Until the 1960s, three courses in civics and government were common in American high schools, and two of them ('civics' and 'problems of democracy') explored the role of citizens and encouraged students to discuss current issues. Today those courses are very rare. What remains is a course on 'American government' that usually spends little time on how people can – and why they should – participate as citizens."
And judging by this excerpt from Florida's current "Requirements for a standard high school diploma," the state we reside in has been one of the worst offenders: "Three credits in social studies.—A student must earn one credit in United States History; one credit in World History; one-half credit in economics, which must include financial literacy; and one-half credit in United States Government." This doesn't make much sense in light of the fact that, of the 24 credits required for graduation, eight are electives!
And regarding those in our country who move on to higher education, guess what? "The vast majority of our colleges have made a course on the broad themes of U.S. history or government optional." For those of you who are inclined to assume that merely being exposed to a collegiate environment for 2-4 years ought to make up for such widespread deficiencies in our civics education, the major findings of a Civic Literacy Report from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute will be a real eye-opener:
- A College Degree Fails to Promote Active Civic Engagement Beyond Voting
- Greater Civic Knowledge Trumps a College Degree as the Leading Factor in Encouraging Active Civic Engagement
- Civic Self-Education Increases Active Civic Engagement; Video Games Detract
That so many people in positions of power have been ignoring this problem for the past half century is difficult to understand, particularly in light of the point of view our country's Department of State has been disseminating to the rest of the world through this and other means. (Note: With the exception of the following quotation's title, the highlighting in bold is not in the original.)
"Democracy and Education
"Education is a vital component of any society, but especially of a democracy. As Thomas Jefferson wrote: 'If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never shall be.'
"In contrast to authoritarian societies that seek to inculcate an attitude of passive acceptance, the object of democratic education is to produce citizens who are independent, questioning, and analytical in their outlook, yet deeply familiar with the precepts and practices of democracy. Vanderbilt professor Chester E. Finn, Jr., said in his address to educators in Nicaragua: 'People may be born with an appetite for personal freedom, but they are not born with knowledge about the social and political arrangements that make freedom possible over time for themselves and their children....Such things must be acquired. They must be learned.'
"From this perspective, it is not enough to say that the task of education in a democracy is simply to avoid the indoctrination of authoritarian regimes and provide instruction that is neutral concerning political values. That is impossible: All education transmits values, intended or not. Students can indeed be taught the principles of democracy in a spirit of open inquiry that is itself an important democratic value. At the same time, students are encouraged to challenge conventional thinking with reasoned arguments and careful research. There may be vigorous debate, but democracy's textbooks should not simply ignore events or facts that are unpleasant or controversial.
"'Education plays a singular role in free societies,' Finn states. 'While the education systems of other regimes are tools of those regimes, in a democracy the regime is the servant of the people, people whose capacity to create, sustain, and improve that regime depends in large measure on the quality and effectiveness of the educational arrangements through which they pass. In a democracy, it can fairly be said, education enables freedom itself to flourish over time.'"
A number of organizations have been addressing this serious deficiency in our country's civics education system for quite a few years now, and the activities of 3 of them are outlined below:
1. In 2001, The Joe Foss Institute was created. It has a wide variety of programs, most of which are covered in this video:
The goal of The Civics Education Initiative mentioned in the video, which has probably been the most highly publicized and effective of any organization's efforts thus far, is to require "high school students, as a condition for graduation, to pass a test on 100 basic facts of U.S. history and civics, from the United States Citizenship Civics Test." However, although it has already been successful in 14 states, its website openly acknowledges that it is only "a first step to ensure all students are taught basic civics about how our government works, and who we are as a nation…things every student must learn to be ready for active, engaged citizenship."
2. In 2004, the previously mentioned Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools was created. Aside from the video and other efforts at publicity, its website's "Action Center" page includes a petition to "the President of the United States, the United States Congress, the United States Secretary of Education, the Governors of each State, each State Schools Chief, all State Legislators, all State Boards of Education, each local Superintendent and School Board to take action now to strengthen and improve civic learning (civics, history, economics, geography, service learning linked to the classroom) policies, standards, assessments and funding."
3. In 2006, the same year in which his previously shown video was filmed, Mr Dreyfuss created The Dreyfuss Civics Initiative. Its purpose is to "revive the teaching of civics in American public education to empower future generations with the critical-thinking skills they need to fulfill the vast potential of American citizenship." Among other things, it has established a Civics Discussion Club "to get the general public to think critically and discuss how we can improve our country."
Unfortunately, as noble as these and many other efforts have been, they just don't seem to be enough to get the job done by themselves. Here's just one example of the difficulties they've had: In spite of how informative and inspirational the 3 previously shown videos might seem, the number of "views" they've received over the total of 16 years they've been online is under 75,000. And that's at YouTube, where a single video submitted this year has already been viewed 135 million times ! So helping these and other organizations to spread awareness of this issue will be one of the most important initial goals for your civics clubs.
Of course, the purpose of creating a nationwide system of civics clubs is much broader and more long term than merely restoring formal civics education to its accustomed place in K-12 curriculums. Whereas a solid formal education in civics (especially in our high schools) could symbolically be seen as the root structure of our country's "tree of liberty;" the goal of this nationwide system of civics clubs will be to serve as the trunk of that tree in the years ahead. Carrying this symbolism one step further, whatever national, state, or local activities these clubs will engage in (alone, or in conjunction with other social and political organizations) can be looked upon as the branches. And with every success of these civics clubs, however small, one or more fresh leaves will burst forth on the tree of liberty.
In an interview with PBS's Frontline, the researcher in the above video (Dr. Giedd) provided a great deal more information on this subject. Some excerpts are provided below.
"One of the most exciting discoveries from recent neuroscience research is how incredibly plastic the human brain is. For a long time, we used to think that the brain, because it's already 95 percent of adult size by age six, things were largely set in place early in life. ... [There was the] saying. "Give me your child, and by the age of five, I can make him a priest or a thief or a scholar.
"[There was] this notion that things were largely set at fairly early ages. And now we realize that isn't true; that even throughout childhood and even the teen years, there's enormous capacity for change. We think that this capacity for change is very empowering for teens . . .
"So if a teen is doing music or sports or academics, those are the cells and connections that will be hard-wired. If they're lying on the couch or playing video games or MTV, those are the cells and connections that are going [to] survive."
Although words like adolescent, teen, and young were often used in the video and interview when discussing this critical period for the development of your brains, don't forget that research shows it normally lasts until our mid-twenties:
- University of Rochester - "The rational part of a teen's brain isn't fully developed and won't be until he or she is 25 years old or so."
- Mental Health Daily - "All behaviors and experiences you endure until the age of 25 have potential to impact your developing brain."
- MIT - "As a number of researchers have put it, 'the rental car companies have it right.' The brain isn't fully mature at 16, when we are allowed to drive, or at 18, when we are allowed to vote, or at 21, when we are allowed to drink, but closer to 25, when we are allowed to rent a car."
One of the first things you'll find out if you research civics clubs is that a lot of them have chosen to use "civic," rather that "civics." I chose to include the "s" for one big reason: To reduce the confusion created by this and other webpages dealing with Honda Civic clubs, one of many problems that those who starting forming civics and civic clubs a century ago didn't have to deal with in their far less technologically-advanced times.
And if you dig a bit deeper in your research, you'll find that another group of college students was engaged in creating their own nationwide system of civic clubs (without the "s") way back in 1906. You'll also see that The Intercollegiate League of Civic Clubs they formed was considered to be so important that delegates from the 14 participating universities were invited to an "informal talk" with President Theodore Roosevelt at the White House. (I wasn't able to find anything out about why it failed to catch on, but I don't think it's overly important because our modern world is so radically different from theirs.)
From what has previously been discussed in this background section, you have a pretty good idea of the overall purpose of these civics clubs. As to how they should actually operate, you have a lot of active civic and civics clubs out there that you can study, and whose elected or appointed officers and advisers you can consult with. In particular, I'd like to draw your attention to the Madison Civics Club. It is significant for several reasons, starting with the fact that it has managed to stay in operation for over a century (other than a brief closure during WWII). Another interesting characteristic is that it has operated (albeit at different times) as both an active and crusading organization of many accomplishments, and as one focused more on the common dictionary definition of civics as being merely the study of our rights and responsibilities as citizens.
I recommend that you don't limit yourselves to examining organizations that identify themselves as civic(s) clubs, however. For instance, there's a great deal that can be learned from well-established "public interest" organizations such as Common Cause, Public Citizen, and the 96-year-old League of Women Voters (LWV). And there's also a great deal that can be learned from well-established "service" organizations such as the Lions, Rotary, and Kiwanis clubs—all 3 of which predate the founding of the LWV.
And the most important procedural policy I hope you'll establish for your civics clubs, at every level, is that important decision-making should be made in as democratic a fashion as is reasonably possible. After all, just about any definition you can find of "civics" involves studying the rights and duties of citizens. And there's no better way for students and citizens in a democracy to accomplish that than through experiential learning. Here as well, there are a lot of organizations whose procedures you can study and learn from. On the local level, I would put Portsmouth Listens right at the top of the list. Since 1999, it has been utilizing a form of deliberative democracy in which: "The key has been a commitment to empanel citizens in small groups of 8-12 people, charge them with the responsibility of deliberating like a jury or policy board, and honoring their resulting conclusions."
And on the national level, I believe that America Speaks has provided the best procedures to study and learn from:
Unfortunately, it "closed its doors" 2 years ago after 19 years of operation. However, there are a number of other national level organizations that are still in operation, and whose activities are well worth studying. And although they might not have engaged in as large scale activities as America Speaks, there are at least two of them that possess a feature which might prove to be of even more value: Local representatives.
And there is also at least one organization that is worth taking a look at on the international level. Stanford University's Center for Deliberative Democracy has been "devoted to research about democracy and public opinion obtained through Deliberative Polling" around the world for over 10 years now.
No matter how you choose to operate internally, however, I urge you to do as was recommended earlier in this background section regarding outside activities: Look upon your system of civics clubs as being the trunk of our country's "tree of liberty," with formal high school civics education being the tree's roots. And whenever there are social or political problems that a majority of your members want to address, always try to "branch out" by contacting and offering assistance to well-established organizations with expertise in those areas.
I believe that your members and your fellow citizens will be better served by working together with (rather than competing against) other reputable organizations. A lot of them have been doing wonderful things on our behalf for many years, after all, but have recently fallen on hard times. This is primarily because they (like so many other well-established businesses and nonprofit organizations) have had a great deal of difficulty adapting to the monumental changes in communications technology, especially social media and the powerful handheld devices that are rapidly become ubiquitous.
Before bringing this section on civics clubs to a close, I'd like to caution you against moving too far, too fast. In a free society such as ours, there is a natural tendency for the most enthusiastic and capable individuals to rise to the top of organizations. When that happens in the business world, it spells success. When it comes to citizen-based organizations, however, just the opposite often happens. And that's primarily due to their leadership being too gung-ho and wrapped up in their work, thereby losing touch with the limitations imposed on most of their fellow citizens by their day-to-day lives.
I've seen it happen time and time again: A civic engagement organization is formed by one or more highly-accomplished, dynamic individuals. With each success, the level of their membership, donations, and expenses (paid staff, rental space, etc.) tends to increase. This encourages them to increase the frequency and scope of their activities, which tends to increase the level of their membership, donations, and expenses even further. On and on this cycle goes, until they eventually reach a point at which they are stretching the time and resources of their supporters to the breaking point.
Then, rather than scaling back the frequency and scope of their activities, they double down by increasing the frequency and urgency of their appeals for support—alienating and gradually driving away more and more of their supporters. And this goes on until their organization becomes a mere shell of its former self, looking very much like a dinosaur facing extinction to anyone (especially young adults) looking for an organization to support (and possibly join) in that organization's area of expertise.
And with those last words of advice, I leave the creation and operation of this system of civics clubs in your capable hands—with the understanding that I'll be available to add my two cents' worth whenever it's asked for.
And besides, I'm not recommending that you try to accomplish this overnight, or that you drop everything else to focus on it. By all means, take your time and strive to accomplish it in a series of steps such as the following:
- On January 1 or some other date early n 2017, publicly ask for suggestions from all the important sources you can think of (including members of Congress). And as they come in, compile them and list all the important individuals and entities that endorse each one.
- After you've allowed sufficient time for everyone to weigh in (perhaps 9 months), set up panels of members within your civics clubs to analyze them and make their recommendations for a "Top 10" list.
- Once that is accomplished (perhaps after 6 months), take all their recommendations into consideration for the compilation of an official "Top 10" list. And on a propitious date in 2018 (perhaps July 4th), announce the activation of 10 separate petitions directed to the National Civics Club. Each one of the petitions will be devoted to one of the Top 10 recommendations for our country's next constitutional amendment, with the understanding that the 3 which gather the most signatures (or "votes") will comprise the final 3 choices.
- After a predesignated time period (I suggest at least another 6 months), close all 10 petitions. Then start all over again with another round of voting, which will determine the final winner. This time, however, I recommend that only members of the National Civics Club will be entitled to vote. This is not only justified because they are the ones who will have the primary responsibility for doing what it takes to get the next amendment passed, but because it will be a good promotional tool for getting more people to join your civics clubs.
- Once again, after a predesignated period (another 6 months?), close the polls and announce the winner on as propitious a date as possible (perhaps July 4th again?). And then the ground game begins, with the first step being to initiate a petition to Congress requesting its passage. You will be well into 2019 by this time, but not so far that you won't have plenty of time to get it passed before the next congressional election in November, 2020. And even if you fail in that first attempt, it would make a great issue to publicize for that election—placing all those who didn't support its passage in danger of not being reelected.
In spite of that minimum being raised from its initial level of 5,000 to 100,000 in January, 2013, over 300 responses like these recent ones have been issued since the petition site was activated 5 years ago. And as to whether any of them have ever accomplished anything beyond eliciting an online response, the Obama White House recently provided "a look at some of the petitions that jumpstarted conversations between citizens and their government on important national issues and drove real government action."
Just because it has proven itself worthwhile, however, doesn't guarantee that one of President Obama's successors won't pull the plug on it. And there's reason for concern about President-Elect Trump's intentions: As of this petition's submission on 12-3-16, the only means that he has provided for interacting with him (or his transition team) at his GreatAgain.Gov website was this "Hear more from the transition team" e-mail page.
That's why I recommend that, once you have used this domain name to establish a website entitled "White House Petitions," the first petition you create and promote should be similar to the example highlighted in bold below. (And by the way, your website needn't be equipped to prepare and process petitions on its own—not now, not ever. All you need to do is display duplicates of the petitions you are encouraging your fellow citizens to sign, and then provide links to the originals at the White House's We the People petition site. And until President-Elect Trump is sworn into office on January 20th, you can use nongovernmental petition sites such as this one to prepare and process any petitions directed to him.)
To: President-Elect Trump
One of the things that we have liked most about President Obama is the emphasis he has always placed on providing ways for his fellow citizens to communicate with him and his administration. Even before he was sworn into office the first time in January, 2009, his transition team had already conducted several "Open for Questions" sessions that over 100,000 people participated in. And since then, he has provided us with many other opportunities to make our voices heard.
What has probably been the most effective and popular of them all is the "We the People" e-petitions system that has been in operation since September, 2011. As an indication of how effective it has been, the Obama White House recently provided "a look at some of the petitions that jumpstarted conversations between citizens and their government on important national issues and drove real government action." And as to how popular it is, the Chief Digital Officer of the White House stated last April that it had acquired over 23 million total users. And at the end of that same blog entry, he pretty well summed up our feelings about this innovative e-petitions system that President Obama established 5 years ago:
"Our true hope for We the People is that it will become an essential tool of civic participation — one that outlives this Administration and is carried on by the next and the next (and the next)."
We therefore ask that you make a commitment to continue operating this White House e-petitions system, and to archive all of the responses issued by the Obama Administration.
We, the undersigned students at the University of Florida (UF), do hereby agree to the terms listed below for acquiring ownership of these five domain names: UFCivicsClub.Org, FloridaCivicsClub.Org, NationalCivicsClub.Org, Amendment28.Org, and WhiteHousePetitions.Org.
1. Before the transfer of ownership can take place:
- A UF Civics Club must be created that is officially recognized by the University of Florida (UF).
- The club must have acquired at least 50 members.
- A majority of the club's members, including its president, must signify their agreement to the terms of the offer by signing this petition.
3. In order to ensure that members of the UF Civics Club have ample time to get prepared for each successive level of expansion:
- The Florida Civics Club may be established no earlier than September 1, 2017.
- The National Civics Club may be established no earlier than July 4, 2018.
The Free Domain Names Offer for UF Students petition to Domain Names Owner was written by Tom Foreman and is in the category National Affairs at GoPetition.