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I doubt that I can fully trace the roots of my commitment to public schools, but the path certainly begins with my parents, Gary and Diana Stitzlein, who enrolled me in public schools and who actively participated in the events there with me, from building my elementary playground to volunteering in my classroom to proudly cheering my sports teams. They deliberated with their Farm Bureau members over the closing and relocating of some buildings within the district and whether to support funding levies, modeling the formation of a public working on behalf of public schools. As I grew, I saw firsthand how attending public schools introduced me to a wide array of people, experiences, and ideologies, including some which directly and fruitfully challenged my own upbringing. I continued seeking those opportunities as I selected public colleges and graduate universities.

As I began to formally study the public education system and to learn about its historical and philosophical possibilities for achieving a more inclusive and just democracy, my commitment solidified. In the years since, I have marched alongside thousands of frustrated teachers responding to accountability movements, overseen teachers completing their internships in public schools, and offered up my own time as a volunteer teacher and tutor. Most recently, as a mother having to select my son’s elementary school, I affirmed that commitment and began to publicly encourage others to do likewise, while further integrating myself in the district by joining the decision-making committee of the school and local organizations working to secure improved public schools, where I learned from the passion I saw in others.

Those decisions and actions have been supported by many people along the way, including outstanding teachers and professors Jennifer Richards, Richard Momeyer, and Kathleen Knight Abowitz, who have employed citizenship education approaches that have shaped me into an active supporter of public schools and democracy, equipped with a disposition toward political dissent and habits of democracy.

In bringing that history into a message urging others to fulfill their responsibilities to support public schools through this book, I have also been helped by many caring citizens. My graduate assistants Lori Foote and Amy Rector- Aranda and local teachers Karen Zaino and Barrett Smith were instrumental in helping me not only with the nitty-gritty of revising and formatting, but also with ensuring that the ideas I put forward reflected their experiences as practicing teachers and public school parents. My colleagues Walter Feinberg, Sigal

Ben-Porath, and Kathleen Knight Abowitz have provided valuable feedback on an initial draft of this book and have provided me with excellent models to follow in their own work. I am grateful to each of them.

Finally, I am thankful to the following journals for allowing me to print expanded and significantly altered versions of the following publications as part of my book chapters:

  • • “Addressing Educational Accountability and Political Legitimacy with Citizen Responsibility,” Educational Theory 65, no. 5 (2015): 563-580.
  • • “Habits of Democracy: A Deweyan Approach to Citizenship Education in America Today,” Education & Culture 30, no. 2 (2014): 61-86.
  • • “Citizenship Education in For-Profit Charter Schools?” Journal of Curriculum Studies 45, no. 2 (2013): 251-276, available online at http://

I am also grateful to the Spencer Foundation for their support of this book as a whole and to the Templeton Foundation for their support of the notion of hope that underlies chapter nine. Such support does not constitute endorsement by the sponsors of the views expressed in this publication.

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