Past Workshop Topics

Explore past topics for The Bennion Teachers' Workshop for the Perpetuation of Democratic Principles. This program is made possible by an endowment to Utah State University's Mountain West Center for Regional Studies. The endowment was created by Ione Bennion, a teacher and community activist, to "provide an atmosphere and the educational resources to explore the concepts upon which democracy is built, the conditions under which it flourishes, and the dangers to its existence." Taught by Utah State University faculty and guest speakers who represent the latest scholarship in the topics presented, the workshops focus on giving inservice and pre-inservice teachers practical tools that they can use in the classroom. 


Athenian Democracy and its Legacy: Learning Lessons on Self Governance from the Ancients

In "Federalist No. 10" James Madison warns that a direct democracy, like that of ancient Athens, tends to disintegrate into warring factions, and he suggests that a republic, with representative leaders, might supply "the cure for which we are seeking."  Was Madison thinking of the Roman republic? Did Madison's assumptions about the Athenian democracy and the Roman republic have a valid historical basis?  To what extent did these two classical models influence the institutions of our American democratic republic? This workshop looked closely at the history, structure, and functioning of the Athenian democracy and the Roman republic to begin to answer these questions.

Diverse Elementary Students


Religion and American Democracy: Literacy, Liberty, and the Public Good

In a religiously diverse and vibrant society such as the United States, and especially in the Mountain West where religion plays such a major role in our history and contemporary culture and politics, religious literacy becomes a key component of good citizenship. Through interactive sessions and visits to religious sites, participants explored the concept of religious literacy, heard arguments for why it matters for good citizenship in our American democracy, and were offered strategies for increasing religious literacy amoung students and the general public.

Diverse Elementary Students


Hidden in the Shadows of Democracy: Engaging & Teaching the Strength of Race & Difference

In May 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, we watched the death of George Floyd. Americans responded, protesting the realities of racial injustice in cities across the country. For many individuals, this may have been the first time they recognized the depth and breadth of discrimination in the United States, in their communities, and in their classrooms. Individuals have been inspired to engage in deep thought and discussion of their role in the creation, development, and advancement of racial discrimination. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has also revealed deeper racial inequalities with its disparate impact on the health and education of marginalized communities. The 2021 workshop offered a dynamic hybrid online learning space for participants to engage in brave conversations in a nonjudgmental space and walk away with practical, powerful tools.

Diverse Group of People


Forward Out of Darkness: Gender, Media, and Suffrage in the United States

The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote in the United States. From the Declaration of Sentiments in 1848 to the opening of the ballot boxes to women in 1920, women deftly showed their knowledge that access to and control of the media was power. Using media as a lens through which to view the struggle for suffrage, the 2019 Bennion Teachers' Workshop considered past suffrage struggles within the context of today's struggles for voting rights and women's rights.

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Revolution, Representation, Propaganda: Democracy in the Atlantic

Various forms of media have long served as catalysts of revolution and change. The 2018 Bennion Teachers' Workshop focused on media and the experiments with representative governments that emerged from the violent upheavals of revolution at the end of the 18th century in the United States, France, and Haiti. Participants exploredexplored the topic through an immersive role-play simulation of the American Revolution ("Reacting to the Past") that offered a broad background on social, ideological, and political forces and critically examined the uses of revolutionary-era media, including propaganda, newspapers, and pamphlets. 

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Literature of Protest: Civil Rights; Democracy; Social Justice

From joining Martin Luther King's March on Washington to joining a community conversation via a letter to the editor of a local paper, the synergy of people coming together in protest proves its power to create change on global, national, local, and personal levels. Through study of past and present social movements, participants in the 2017 Bennion Workshop considered the role of literature in civic engagement. Participants also explored the ethical dimensions of bringing these often-sensitive issues into the classroom.

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Democracy and the Future of American Capitalism

In 2008, the American economy crashed in a way that has called into question not only the economic structures of the United States, but also the relationship between its economic and political structures. The 2016 Bennion Teachers' Workshop examined historic economic policy approaches and the current issues facing the United States. Teachers were assisted with incorporating coverage of economic policy, particularly presidential leadership during an election year, into their classrooms.

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Democracy in Asia: A Universal or American System?

Asia is the most populous region of the globe with the world's largest economics after the United States, and yet most American students know very little about our Pacific neighbors. Eight renowned specialists assisted teachers in incorporating coverage of Asia into their classrooms by exploring the controversial attitudes towards and varied reception of democracy in Asian societies.

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Journalism as a Tool for Education and Education as the Key to Sustaining Journalism

Our nation is entering a post-professional media age, one in which the responsibilities of the free press is being bequeathed to average citizens engaging in "acts of journalism" on behalf of themselves, their communities, and their country. Teachers identified ways in which educators can encourage a sustained, robust, paticipatory press and investigated ways to integrate journalistic skills into core curriculum.

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Developing Students into Collaborative Citizens: Learning Civil Discourse and Democratic Decision-Making

The ability to civilly and collaboratively make democratic decisions is often overlooked. Experts in the field of communication studies spent the week exploring the knowledge and skills of civil discourse and democratic decision-making that are a basic element of engaged citizenship. Teachers developed curricula to use in their own classrooms. 

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The Open Space of Democracy: How Place Writing Transforms Classrooms, Communities, and the World

Participants considered how democracy is not simply an idea, but a place. By looking to the land around us, we can better understand how democracy is always interdependent, situated, circular, and associative. Through close observation, we can write ourselves into our own landscapes, demonstrating our connections with place, the past, and each other.

2012 cover

Year Workshop Title
2011 The Changing Course of Democracy: The Contested Meanings of a Political Idea
2009 Democracy in Transition: U.S. Presidential Elections, 1960-2008
2008 Balancing Liberty and Security in U.S. Foreign Policy: Past and Present, Does the War on Terrorism Change Everything?
2007 The Utah War: Teaching Controversial Subjects
2006 Patriotism  and  Protest:  Everyday  Encounters with  Democracy
2005 Politics and Media
2004 Democracy, Language, Ecology, and Inclusion in the Classroom
2003 Counting Every Vote, Making Every Vote Count
2002 Representation and Participation: Music, Poetry, and Democratic Ideals in the Classroom
2001 Reading, Reflection, and Respect: Building Democracy through Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults
2000 Fairness for Girls and Boys: Gender and Democratic Principles in America's Schools
1995 Roots of American Democracy
1994 Democracy in Transition in Contemporary Russia