Center for Citizenship & Just Democracy

Supported by a $100,000 grant from the Edward E. Ford Foundation, the Center for Citizenship and Just Democracy was created to expand upon The Frederick Gunn School’s longstanding commitment to character education, which stems from the ideals of school founder Frederick Gunn. It will also build on the success of the LEADS Program, a four-year curriculum based on the mission of the school.

In the 2019-20 academic year, a task force led by History Department Chair Bart McMann, began working on plans to expand the LEADS curriculum into the day-to-day life of the school, by expanding on existing opportunities for students to develop leadership skills and help them understand how they can put Mr. Gunn’s vision of engaged citizenship into action.

One of the center’s first initiatives was for students in McMann’s Honors U.S. Government and Politics class to serve as moderators and timekeepers at a candidates forum co-sponsored by the town’s democratic and republican town committees in October 2019. 

Plans call for the creation of a new space on campus to host the center and foster creative social entrepreneurship, according to McMann, who now serves as director of the new center beginning with the 2020-21 academic year. The new space will be:

  • Modeled on state-of-the-art co-working spaces in urban centers, such as Workbar in Boston and NeuHouse in New York

  • A hub for local community leaders to meet with students about their projects

  • A newsroom, where students will learn news literacy and digital citizenship skills

The grant provides for expanded levels of professional development for faculty around the topics of ethics, leadership, and civic engagement, and will create more opportunities for faculty to become involved in how character education happens at FGS in the 21st century. One early example:

  • In June 2019, McMann participated in the Summer Institute of Civic Studies at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University to learn more about the current scholarship on civic engagement.

  • He shared with his students the newest techniques to “get out the vote,” gleaned from the experts at Tufts

  • FGS students, in turn, implemented these techniques to help register voters on campus for the local election in November.

At The Frederick Gunn School, we see character not as a fixed set of traits, but as a process that spans one’s life; therefore, we believe that moral character development happens through the intentional pursuit – in knowledge and practice – of what is good, right, true, sustainable and beautiful.

The Frederick Gunn School's Character Statement

Character development, and moral character specifically, is the chief purpose of our school. If everything else fell away, that’s what we want to be measured by. But moral character in Mr. Gunn’s mind was not an end in itself. The purpose of developing character was to go out and put it to use in the world, whether that was in the immediate world around you, or more broadly. He wanted his alumni to be what we call ‘engaged citizens’ and this is what he modeled himself, even before he created the school.

Peter Becker, head of School