Indiana State University Newsroom

American Democracy Project, Economic Education Center help bring C-SPAN bus to Valley

August 25, 2009

A 45-foot bus has become a center for learning and on Aug. 19 it made its way to West Terre Haute.

Indiana State University's American Democracy Project worked with West Vigo High School to bring C-SPAN's Civics Bus to the students.

This bus is a part of the C-SPAN Network, which is known around the country for its unbiased, commercial-free coverage of American politics. In 1993, C-SPAN sent the Civics Bus on a journey to "bring the world of public affairs into schools and communities nationwide," according to C-SPAN's website.

This bus is equipped with televisions and studio equipment to show students, first hand, what C-SPAN tries to accomplish.

C-SPAN's Rachel Katz said that it is important for the bus to reach cities and rural areas provide the same opportunity to students.

West Vigo High School is home to state Sen. Tim Skinner who teaches government and economics classes, and worked with ISU to bring the bus to West Vigo.

"This is a great opportunity for our youth to experience something like this because their lives are so busy that they do not pay attention to what is happening around them," Skinner said.

John Conant, director of ISU's Center of Economic Education, and Chris McGrew, president of Indiana Council for the Social Studies, worked with C-SPAN and Skinner to arrange the visit by the Civics Bus.

"Community engagement is a big part of the university's mission," Conant said. "This kind of event is a good way to strengthen connections with local schools."

Conant joined Skinner and other teachers and students from several classes at the bus.

West Vigo High School Principal Tom Balitewicz stated he thought it was a good experience for the students to learn about a concept that has been around for centuries.

"Civics has been around for a long time, since Plato," he said.

Skinner and Balitewicz shared the same concern about students when speaking about the importance of the bus.

They both said it is disappointing that a lot of today's youth don't vote, and what is worse is that when many of them do vote, they do not always know what they are voting for.

The American Democracy Project is a national effort sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities that began in 2003. It promotes student engagement in public policy and development of civic skills and knowledge.

Darlene Hantzis, ISU professor of communication and women's studies, coordinates the ADP. In November, ISU was selected as one of 16 ADP institutions to join a Civic Agency initiative.

"The Civic Agency Initiative focuses more on citizenship as action and gives us access to wonderful resources and partners across the country as we seek to develop successful practices for citizenship education," Hantzis said.

The ADP organizes many programs, including the Pizza and Politics series and Banned Books Outloud.

"This year the format of Pizza and Politics will engage students and community members in the practice of ‘deliberative democracy'," Hantzis said.

The ADP at ISU also will be organizing events to recognize Constitution Day and Equality Day. Hantzis will also be teaching a new course focused on Civic Agency.

The visit by the C-SPAN Civics Bus offered another opportunity to reach out to the local community and demonstrate how the ADP can work with students in the area, Hantzis said.

Leaving the bus, junior Kristin Childres said, "I was already familiar with C-SPAn but I thought it was really interesting and a good experience."

Sophomores Trey Clark and Nick Kellams agreed with Childres that it was a good experience and great opportunity to learn more about civics.

C-SPAN's Civics Bus made a stop in West Terre Haute after its appearance at the Indiana State Fair. After leaving West Vigo, the journey for the Civics Bus continued to the Illinois and Missouri state fairs.