Founder and Chief Executive Officer Center for Teaching the Rule of Law
The development of an understandable definition of the rule of law for use by teachers with students.
“Teach the children so it will not be necessary to teach the adults.” – Abraham Lincoln
The Center for Teaching the Rule of Law (“Center”), and its innovative Rule of Law Project (www.ruleoflaw-vba.org), is a web-based resource and training centre for teaching the rule of law on a global scale. The purpose of the Center’s Rule of Law Project is to change fundamentally the way the rule of law is taught and understood. Providing educators around the world with the resources needed to teach the rule of law as the foundation of freedom, individual and collective liberty and peace will strengthen communities, build nations and make the world a better, safer place.
The Center has developed an understandable definition of the rule of law for use by teachers with students. The rule of law is the ideal that
(a) governments are subject to the law, not above it;
(b) citizens are actively engaged in making laws that govern them (participating directly or by consent);
(c) these laws are to be fairly and equally applied to everyone; and
(d) all citizens agree they will obey the law. These elements are the basis for all civil societies, past, present and future. Teaching our children these lessons will give them a personal relationship with the rule of law that will enable them to grow up and become active and engaged citizens of the world.
1. Can you briefly describe the innovation, in terms of the problem(s) it tries to solve and why is it necessary?
“There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” – John Adams
Democracies cannot exist without the rule of law. The most significant challenge to liberty and justice in the world today is educating youth about the importance of the rule of law and the need to promote, preserve and protect it.
John Adams understood that democracies are messy, expensive, hard to sustain, and require continuous citizen engagement to make them work. Education and a meaningful understanding of the rule of law are the only things that will prove Mr. Adams’ wrong.
There is, however, less emphasis on teaching history, social studies and civics than ever before. Alarmingly, civics or social studies textbooks today contain only a passing reference to the rule of law, if any. Education begins one rung too high on the ladder of understanding the evolutionary elements of the rule of law. It starts with the structural parts of government that attempt to make the rule of law a reality, and so fails to adequately explain why they exist and why they work. The Center’s Rule of Law website (www.ruleoflaw-vba.org) contains extensive resource materials prepared by educators for educators to fill this critical gap in knowledge.
2. What makes your innovation unique?
We start at a different beginning:
- Civil societies based on democratic principles cannot exist without the rule of law. The structure of government and its systems will not work unless citizens understand their vital role as participants in the democratic process. How this works cannot clearly be known without first understanding the history, theory and politics of the rule of law. That is what we provide.
- Our focus is on teaching teachers and developing educational content for their use in giving students a better understanding of the relevance of the rule of law in their lives. By helping teachers teach the rule of law, we can change the world one student at a time.
- The Center’s Rule of Law Project is based on an interdisciplinary approach to teaching the rule of law. Our educational resources are directly applicable to history, civics and social studies, English, economics, science, technology, religion, sociology, and all other disciplines. Each of these subjects relies on the rule of law as its fundamental building block.
- A signature feature of the Center’s Rule of Law Project in the United States is bringing volunteer lawyers and judges into classrooms to work with teachers to teach the rule of law to elementary, middle and high school students in public and private schools.
- We are the only civics education program on the rule of law with an international component.
3. What triggered the development of the innovation?
When G. Michael Pace, Jr. was President of The Virginia Bar Association in 2008, his younger daughter, Cate, was in the 7th grade. Mr. Pace asked Cate what she was learning in her American Civics class. She did a wonderful job of explaining the three branches of government and their roles, the separation of powers, the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights, and other aspects of the structure of government. Mr. Pace looked at Cate’s textbook, and in the lower left-hand corner on page 188, there was a small box. In the box was the term “rule of law,” with the definition almost as short. Mr. Pace realized then that teachers were doing a good job of teaching the basics of civics with the time and resources available, but they needed help in giving students a deeper understanding of why democracy works.
What began as a family dinner table conversation has become a nationally and internationally recognized interdisciplinary, multifaceted rule of law educational program. After only three years, the Center for Teaching the Rule of Law’s Rule of Law Project is now included in public and private schools across Virginia, and is being adopted in other of the United States and countries around the world.
4. Which persons and organizations were involved in the development and what role did they play?
G. Michael Pace, Jr., is the creator of the Center and its Rule of Law Project. He serves as the Center’s Chairman and CEO. Mr. Pace is also a practicing attorney and the Managing Partner of Gentry Locke Rakes & Moore, LLP, a significant law firm in Virginia. He contributes approximately one-third of his time to the Center and the Rule of Law Project, providing management and guidance; developing strategies and opportunities; maintaining existing national and international relationships and developing new ones; speaking to educators, bar associations and civic groups nationally and internationally; and communicating with constituents. Mr. Pace’s passion for the Rule of Law Project and his contacts with its constituent groups make him invaluable to its continued success.
H. Timothy Isaacs is the Vice President and Education Director of the Center’s Rule of Law Project. Mr. Isaacs is a retired educator and administrator with over 42 years of experience in teaching and developing interdisciplinary curriculum to enhance public education. He is currently the only paid participant in the Rule of Law Project. Mr. Isaacs contributes 50+ hours each week creating resource materials; conducting research, coordinating activities with school administrators and teachers; speaking with various educational, civic and bar groups; planning activities with local, state, national and international organizations interested in adapting or adopting the Rule of Law Project; and creating collaborative relationships. Mr. Isaacs level of commitment, experience, knowledge, enthusiasm and intensity are key reasons for the success of the Rule of Law Project. He has significant stature as an educator, and instills confidence in teachers, administrators, volunteers, and all others involved in the Rule of Law Project. Mr. Isaacs is also a master curriculum developer. He encourages teambuilding and an interdisciplinary approach to teaching the rule of law that result in magic in the classroom. Mr. Isaacs’ value to the Rule of Law Project is priceless.
Sharon Thompson is the Center’s Administrative Coordinator and Executive Assistant to Mr. Pace at Gentry Locke. She spends approximately half of her fulltime employment at the firm providing administrative, logistical, statistical, and strategic support for all aspects of the Center’s Rule of Law Project. By her efforts, project plans are designed and implemented with perfection. Gentry Locke currently contributes her time and talent.
The rapid expansion of the Center’s Rule of Law Project and the growing national and international interest it has generated have increased significantly the demands on the time and resources of the Center and the Rule of Law Project’s staff. We are responding to many more inquiries and requests to speak and collaborate on projects in other states and other countries. To address this need, Mr. Pace intends to spend the majority of his time in 2012 and future years with the Center to expand its opportunities and offerings through collaborative relationships with state, national and international education associations; non-governmental organizations, bar associations and civic groups. This is a significant transition, and one necessary to accomplish the goals of Center and its Rule of Law Project. The need for additional administrative and support services has also become vital to the Center’s continuing development and success.
5. What kind of resistance have you encountered and how have you overcome it?
We have yet to encounter resistance. At every step, the Rule of Law Project has met with positive reinforcement from teachers, administrators, students, lawyers, judges, volunteers, civic groups, colleges and universities. Once introduced in the classroom, teachers continue to include it as part of their curriculum from year to year. Because the resources are available on our website to anyone, anytime, the normal barriers for dissemination of materials for immediate use have been overcome.
The only difficultly is adequately addressing the demand for rule of law-related education. Additional resources and administrative staff are required in order to allow the Center and its Rule of Law Project to realize its promise as the preeminent education resource about the rule of law.
6. How did you make the goals realistic and attainable, and when will quick wins be available?
We began with a pilot project on February 18, 2009, in three public school divisions in Virginia. That day, 65 teachers and 60 volunteer lawyers and judges taught the rule of law to 2,100 students in all 7th and 8 th grade civics classes. The pilot was an overwhelming success based on comments from school administrators, teachers, and the students. Since then, the Rule of Law Project has expanded to include public and private elementary, middle and high schools in approximately one-third of the 136 school divisions in Virginia. In addition, the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, will introduce the Rule of Law Project in each of its 29 schools in 2012. Through our relationships with the organizations mentioned in Section 9, the Center’s Rule of Law Project has also become a model for rule of law education programs in other states and countries around the world.
In three short years, the Center’s Rule of Law Project has proven that its goal to advance understanding of the rule of law is realistic, attainable, and sustainable.
7. Will the innovation affect other organizations in the chain and if that is the case, how will it affect them?
The Center’s Rule of Law Project’s innovative approach to teaching the rule of law affects positively and directly students, parents, teachers, school officials, and their communities. Students receive a deeper understanding of what makes democracy work so they can preserve and protect it for future generations. Parents benefit from children who learn to act reasonably and responsibly in their communities as citizens. Teachers receive scholarship and thoroughly developed teaching resources to assist them in making the rule of law a continuing interdisciplinary theme throughout the entire academic year for all subjects. School administrators and directors of curriculum instruction receive a fully integrated educational program that is free and immediately adaptable for all academic purposes. Communities are made stronger in the short- and long-term by enlightening citizens about the essential ingredients of what makes democratic societies based on the rule of law work. Law enforcement officers and the judicial system benefit from new generations of young citizens who better understand the benefits of respecting and obeying the law.
8. How was the development funded and what were reasons for the financing organization?
The Center’s Rule of Law Project has been funded by annual grants from the Virginia Law Foundation since 2009. The Center’s Rule of Law Project satisfies completely the mission of the Virginia Law Foundation, which is to promote through philanthropy the advancement of the rule of law, law-related education, and access to justice.
9. Can you name 3 to 5 characteristics of the innovation that are most essential to make it work?
- The offerings of the Center’s Rule of Law Project are free.
- The Center’s Rule of Law Project’s interdisciplinary educational and resource materials are available to anyone, anytime via the internet (www.ruleoflaw-vba.org).
- The extensive relationships we have with national and international advocacy groups, including the World Justice Project and its World Justice Index (www.worldjusticeproject.org), Legacy International (www.legacyintl.org), Open World (www.openworld.gov), the National Council of the Social Studies (www.ncss.org), the American Bar Association Commission in Civic Education in the Nation's Schools (www.americanbar.org/groups/civics.html), the National Conference of Bar Presidents (www.ncbp.org), the Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier (http://center.montpelier.org), the University of Virginia Center for Politics “Global Perspectives on Democracy” (www.centerforpolitics.org), the Virginia Holocaust Museum (www.va-holocaust.com), the Virginia Consortium of Social Studies Specialists and College Educators (www.ncss.org/content/virginia_council_for_the_social_studies), Teaching American History (TAH) U.S. Department of Education Grant Program (http://www2.ed.gov/programs/teachinghistory/index.html), and non-governmental organizations in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, Australia and South America, and others.
- The collaboration among lawyers, judges, teachers and students in the classroom.
10. How do you measure whether it is a successful innovation?
We gauge our success by the feedback we receive from our relationship partners and participants:
Teachers and School Administrators
“I am pleased to announce that The Virginia Bar Association (VBA) and The Virginia Law Foundation (VLF) will sponsor the fourth annual VBA Rule of Law Project in fall 2011 and spring 2012. Begun as a pilot project in 2009, the VBA’s Rule of Law Project is an educational program taught by volunteer citizen lawyers and judges in Virginia, and is specifically designed to enhance the teaching of the rule of law to middle school civics students in public and private schools throughout the state. The purpose of this free, one-day educational program is to better inform middle school students about the role of the rule of law as the foundation for our representative form of government and to provide them with information that will make them more active and engaged citizens.” - Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Virginia Department of Education
“The Rule of Law Project is an exciting partnership between The Virginia Bar Association and schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It provides students in every civics classroom the opportunity to meet a required standard of learning in a meaningful, memorable way, to have an opportunity to interact with a professional from their community, and also for these outstanding professionals to see all the great things that our children and teachers are doing in our 21st century schools.” - Dr. H. Alan Seibert, Superintendent, Salem Public Schools, Salem, Virginia
“When you see two professionals, one a lawyer and one a teacher, in front of the classroom talking about at topic, from a student’s point of view, it makes it real for them.” – Corbett Hairston, Civics Teacher, Andrew Lewis Middle School
“I wanted to let you know that the day was tremendous and very successful. I went to six presentations and saw very different lessons at each one. Everyone did a great job. I appreciate all your hard work as well as your vision that enabled EVERY Civics student in the Valley to have a guest speaker...lawyer...in their classroom. That is a HUGE feat! I would hazard a guess to say MAYBE 1/4 of those teachers would normally be able to get a lawyer to visit their classroom. Your dream touched everyone this way.” - Ellen Forbes Copenhaver, Social Studies Supervisor K-12, Roanoke City Public Schools
"It was excellent! Thanks for all your efforts. I have several students who want to study law, and it made their day!" - Virginia Woodall-Gainey, Teacher, Lucy Addison Middle School
7th and 8th Grade Students
“The rule of law is something that everyone needs to understand. The legal system is important to our community and without it our nation would be in ruins.” - Student
“Thank you for taking your time out of your work day to come and talk to us and teach us about the importance and power of the law. It is one of the most interesting things we’ve done in our civics class.” - Student
“Thank you for taking time off your busy job to come here and teach us some fundamentals of the law, court and the jury. You did an EXCELLENT job. p.s. I think I might become a lawyer. What do you think?” - Student
“Thank you for coming to our school and talking to us about the law. I hope I don’t get in trouble with the law. I’m sure I won’t because you taught us so much.” - Student
“Thank you for coming to our school. I learned a lot about how to behave in court and how to protect my rights. I think what you do is very interesting and kind of fun. Again, thank you!” – Student
Volunteer Lawyers and Judges
“The title “The Rule of Law” is a great start because it is the thread. If you boil American down to what makes us different and what is our foundation, the rule of law – everyone being equal under the law – is the basis. From the most lowly citizen to the present, the rule of law applies the same to everyone, and I think that is an important concept for kids.” – Virginia State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, II
“It’s [the rule of law] not just an academic exercise. We’re talking about how we live, how we interact with each other, and we don’t have to be casual observers. We can learn what’s going on, how it affects us, and, if we don’t like it, we can do something about it. But there’s no affecting it in any kind of significant way if you don’t understand how it works or why it’s there in the first place.” - Chief Judge Richard Taylor, Richmond Circuit Court, Richmond, Virginia
“I too was very impressed with the Martin Luther King Middle School students. It bothers me when some people claim the youth of today are not as bright and talented as the youth of the past. These people should participate in such programs as yesterdays’ (Rule of Law Project) or experience what the young people of today can offer.” - Michael HuYoung, Barnes & Diehl, P.C., Richmond, VA
“I was so proud to be a part of such a wonderfully organized and well-executed substantive program. The students were awesome! I am so proud of how fully engaged and respectful they were. I can hardly wait for the next one” - Judge Angela E. Roberts, Richmond, VA,
“This was my first year (2011) participating in the Rule of Law Project, and it was a great experience. It was as much an educational experience for me as for the students…I’d happily participate in the future and hope other attorneys and judges will do the same.” - Hon. David W. Garland, Magistrate, 23rd Judicial District, Region 2, Roanoke, VA
The International Community
“We [the World Justice Project] will continue our efforts to hold conferences of leaders from various disciplines to address rule of law issues of concerns, but we also want to laser our focus on the education issues that you have hit upon. To that end, your program, and its success, will be very important! Thanks for bringing your continued good works…” – Suzanne Gilbert, The World Justice Project
“We are delighted that you plan to join us in Barcelona for the World Justice Forum III. Given your close work with the World Justice Project and your success in implementing projects developed at WJP events, we would like to ask you to serve on a panel to introduce the project design process to Forum participants.” - Leila Hanafi, The World Justice Project
“[sic] It was great pleasure to meet you during the program in University of the Virginia Center of Politics, and I appreciating your promote contact for the Rule of Law Project… I would like to share some of actions which we going to take in the coming months:
- The civil society rule of law group in Afghanistan willing to organize a seminar on Rule of law. The aim of this seminar would be to analyze the rule of law challenges and provide recommendations for the Afghanistan officials and international agencies.
- As well as the group is willing to start campaigns to encourage Civil Society organizations and individuals to participate courts session to see the process of court cases and point out some of gaps and after three or six months based on courts observes results the group will prepare recommendation letter to the chief of the court in order to improve the court system in terms of citizens rights protection.” [sic] – Wazhma Rahimzay
“Thanks again for your participation in the Open World program. We are very indebted to you, as
will the [Russian] judges be. [The judges] are very interesting and very enthusiastic.” [sic]- Charles F. B. McAleer, Jr., Miller & Chevalier Chartered, Washington, D.C.
11. How many people or organizations benefit from this innovation now?
Every teacher, the students they teach and their parents, and the communities in which they live, work and play.
12. How many people or organizations could potentially benefit your innovation now and in the future? Can or will the innovation be used internationally and how do you overcome cultural differences?
The audiences and opportunities are limitless. In the next year, the Center’s Rule of Law Project will rapidly expand to more states in America as a result of our affiliations with the National Council of the Social Studies, the American Bar Association and the World Justice Project (Domestic Program). Our affiliation with the World Justice Project (International Program), Legacy International, Open World, and our relationships with NGOs in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, South America and elsewhere effectively address any cultural issues that may exist, and will enable educators and organizations in more countries to adapt the Rule of Law Project for their uses.
13. Can you quantify the financial benefits?
Yes. Providing a free and an ever-expanding, fully developed and integrated educational curriculum for teaching the rule of law at multiple levels permits school systems to avoid the expense of obtaining or developing civics curriculum for students. By using our materials in-house for training new teachers and expanding the knowledge of existing teachers, school systems also save the costs associated with continuing education for their history, social studies and civics teachers.
14. Is the innovation financially viable and sustainable and if yes, how?
The Center’s Rule of Law Project in Virginia has been funded exclusively by the Virginia Law Foundation since 2008. We expect the Virginia Law Foundation to continue its funding through June 30, 2013. Thereafter, the Virginia Law Foundation will likely require the Center’s Rule of Law Project to become independent based on its funding policies. In order to continue and realize the opportunities presented to us, additional or alternate financial resources will be required. To that end, we are making application for grants from private and public foundations for programmatic and administrative support.
15. Did you receive any recognition?
In November 2009, the World Justice Project selected the Rule of Law Project as one of five international programs featured at the World Justice Forum II in Vienna, Austria. In June 2011, Mr. Pace and Mr. Isaacs were again invited to speak on teaching youth about the rule of law at the plenary session of the World Justice Forum III in Barcelona, Spain, to 500 attendees from over 100 countries. They have also been asked to make presentations at the annual conferences of the National Council for the Social Studies in Denver, Colorado (November 2010), and in Washington, D.C. (December 2011), each of which was attended by over 5,000 history, civics and social studies teachers, administrators, and curriculum coordinators from all 50 states. They will likely present again at the NCSS annual meeting in Seattle, Washington, in November 2012. In addition, Mr. Pace presented the Center’s Rule of Law Project at the American Bar Association National Conference of Bar Presidents’ annual meeting in Toronto in August 2011. The Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond hosted a symposium featuring the Rule of Law Project on Law Day, May 1, 2009.
The Rule of Law Project has been endorsed by: the World Justice Project (http://worldjusticeproject.org) as part of its outreach initiatives to teach youth about the rule of law worldwide; the National Conference of the Social Studies (http://www.ncss.org) for use by curriculum coordinators and teachers in public, middle and high schools in America; the American Bar Association Commission on Civic Education in the Nation’s Schools designated the Rule of Law Project as a “Best Practices” community service project for bar associations in all 50 of the United States; Dr. Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Commonwealth of Virginia, Department of Education, has since 2009 recommended it for implementation in all Virginia public schools; and the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, will include the Rule of Law Project in all 29 of its private schools this year.
The University of Virginia Center for Politics’ Global Perspectives on Democracy includes the Center’s Rule of Law Project in its summer programs to delegations from other countries. We have been and will continue to be included as presenters at the state conferences of the Virginia Consortium of Social Studies Specialists and College Educators. We are participants in the Teaching American History (TAH) Program of the U.S. Department of Education, and serve as judges in the “We the People” annual competition sponsored by the Center for the Constitution at James Madison’s Montpelier. We frequently speak to visiting delegations from the Middle East, sponsored by Legacy International (www.legacyintl.org Indonesia, Oman, Kuwait, 2009-2010); Open World (www.openworld.gov Russian judges, 2011); Mr. Pace and Mr. Isaacs also teach “Law and Society,” a class at Roanoke College in Virginia, based on the Center’s Rule of Law Project.
16. What lessons did you learn along the way that could be useful to others?
We learned the power of a simple idea can change the world one student at a time. We learned educators are passionate about what they do, and are hungry for more resources to help them teach their students more effectively. We learned students can understand the meaning of the rule of law and relate it to their daily lives and their futures. We learned the world isn’t very big, and that an idea can spread like lightening across the globe when it ignites the passions of disparate people in a common purpose. We rediscovered the magic of the classroom.