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TO:                  Superintendents of Schools, Principals, All Teachers, and All Staff


FROM:            J. Duke Albanese, Commissioner


DATE:             August 28, 2002


RE:                   A Back to School Invitation to Celebrate America’s Ideals, Citizenship, and Character


As we head back to school with eager anticipation – and some of us have already started – I ask you to join me in focusing upon an important and enduring cause: to affirm and celebrate the values and character of American democracy and our Maine communities in these challenging and apprehensive times.


With a world more complex and with change more rampant than ever in our history, we are challenged to educate our children and youth for a new future, where promises of prosperity, a civil society, and a thriving democracy are for all – not some – of our citizens.  We are challenged both to educate our youth to higher levels of knowledge and skills than ever before, and to nurture our young people with the values, attitudes, and behaviors that will enable them to survive, prosper, and coexist in a democratic society.


Since the beginnings of public education in America, our citizens have recognized that the aims of public education extend beyond academics to values, attitudes, and the precepts and practices of democracy itself.  Over the past twelve years, from the Common Core of Learning (1990) to Maine’s Learning Results (1996) to Taking Responsibility (2001), we have kept this facet of our mission front and center here in Maine, addressing how we prepare students for personal and global stewardship, and to be responsible and involved citizens who demonstrate ethical and responsible student behavior.  I am particularly grateful for the support provided by the Maine Legislature and the Maine School Management Association along with many other groups and individuals who have provided commitment and support to the notion that in Maine we intend to develop smart students who are good people.



The past twelve months, in the aftermath of the events of September 11, have given pause to many of us to reflect on the fundamental character of our country, communities, and people, the nature of freedom and democracy, and the basic values for which we stand.  This reflection is important and healthy, and a reminder of the “teachable moment” that we may find even in the most distressing tragedies we face.


In this context, I want to invite all of you – administrators, teachers, staff, students, and parents – to join in deepening these reflections by focusing our thoughts and activities at the beginning of this school year, and throughout the year, on these concepts: the “Idea of America”, the nature of democracy and citizenship, and our essential ethics and values.


I will be asking Governor King to proclaim September 9 to 15 as Maine Character and Citizenship Week (roughly to parallel the national American Character Week around which a number of groups have organized their efforts).  In early September, I will join Rush Kidder from the Institute for Global Ethics and other leaders to spotlight these important topics for conversation and instruction in our schools.  Our message will be extended to Maine’s public through the media.  We encourage schools to use this week in September to frame activities or events.  Although September 11 will be a day of great sadness and remembrance, the national reflection it has provoked provides a great opportunity to explore and to teach.


To this end, and to assist you in your efforts, we have prepared a rich set of resources for you to use as school begins, throughout the month of September, and as the school year unfolds.  This resource package includes ideas about reflective readings on central topics such as idealism, heroism, nationalism, and patriotism; suggestions for service and service-learning activities; thoughts on how to infuse service and democratic practice throughout the Learning Results and your curriculum; and links to a host of extensive on-line resources for teachers and students.


These resource materials are available on the web at  If you would like additional assistance or cannot access the electronic materials, please contact Tonia Stevens at 624-6627 or


These concepts and topics are not the work of a day or even a month or year, yet it is important that we sometimes bring a special focus to our universal, ongoing work, to reaffirm its importance and to remember what we may take for granted.


Thanks are due to many here at the Department, as well as our colleagues at the KIDS Consortium, and the Institute for Global Ethics for helping to inspire this effort and create this resource packet.


Again, I invite you to join me in this ambitious and meaningful undertaking that binds our academic work to our ideals, to our communities, and to our hearts.