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John Kincaid, Robert B. and Helen S. Meyner Professor of Government and Public Service, is using a $153,060 National Endowment for the Humanities grant to hold “History, Diversity, and Democracy in America’s State Constitutions,” an institute on state constitutions for 20 high school teachers from around the United States that began Monday and will conclude July 23.

Building on a highly successful 2002 NEH summer institute, the program again is being hosted by Lafayette’s Meyner Center for the Study of State and Local Government, featuring instruction by Kincaid, eight visiting scholars, and a master social-studies teacher. Brandon Benjamin ’06,a double major in government & law and economics & business fromTowanda, Pa., and art major Stacey Ehrlich ’05 (Bridgewater, N.J.) are assisting with the program.

Participants are studying, discussing, and developing lesson plans and teaching strategies on the history of America’s state constitutions since 1776; traditions of state constitutional design; theories of democracy, rights, popular government, political liberty, and representation in the state constitutions; state constitutional successes and failures; and the impacts of state constitutions on public and private life.

Given the usual emphasis on the U.S. Constitution in teaching, says Kincaid, as well as the need to understand the federal and state constitutions in relation to each other, the institute also is contrasting the two constitutional experiences, highlighting America’s dual federal-state constitutionalism, similarities and differences between the federal and state constitutions, and the federal and state constitutions as twin pillars of America’s “complete constitution.” Brief attention also will be given to Native American constitutionalism.

“By working with the institute’s faculty, exchanging ideas with each other, conducting a mock state-constitutional convention, and, then, contributing to a web site and other communications designed to foster follow-up and dissemination, the participants will form a teaching and sharing community focused on the entire constitutional framework and history of the United States and of their own states,” says Kincaid.

Each participant will take knowledge gained from the institute to develop lesson plans and teaching approaches.

“The objective is to enable teachers to present their state constitution as a living, changing reflection of their state’s political history and the contending forces that have shaped that history, and of the state citizenry’s conceptions of rights, democracy, popular government, political liberty, representation, and the like,” says Kincaid.

Constitutional illiteracy is a serious problem, notes Kincaid, citing a 1991 national survey by the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, which found that 48 percent of adult Americans did not know their state has its own constitution. Most Americans also have limited knowledge of the U.S. Constitution, he adds.

Founded at Lafayette in 1994, the Meyner Center engages in teaching, research, publication, and public service on state and local government, federalism, and intergovernmental relations in the United States and abroad. The center publishes Publius: The Journal of Federalism, a quarterly scholarly journal with a worldwide readership. It works regularly with federal, state, and local officials and their national associations in the United States. It has conducted six Fulbright institutesthat bring together leaders and professors from around the world to debate and discuss federalism, republicanism, democracy, constitutions, and other governmental issues. Most of the participants are from Third World countries struggling with these issues.

“The participants take something back to their country and contribute to their academic institution and their society as a whole,” says Kincaid. Among those attending past institutes were groups from Cyprus and Indonesia. “I hope in the long run that we can play some role in building reconciliation and ending hostilities.”

This year’s Meyner Center activities have included a forum on intermunicipal cooperation attended by about 80 local officials and municipal managers from the Lehigh Valley. The center distributed a report on ways to improve intermunicipal cooperation, which was based on interviews led by Diane Elliott, the center’s director for public service, with officials from the 63 municipalities in Lehigh and Northampton counties and Phillipsburg, N.J.

Last year, the Meyner Center hosted a forum on bioterrorism preparedness for elected officials and emergency first responders in the greater Lehigh Valley and Warren County, N.J., featuring keynote talks by Peter F. Verga, special assistant for homeland security, U.S. Department of Defense, and Keith Martin, director of Pennsylvania’s Office of Homeland Security. The center also conducted a survey of fire, EMS, police, and other first responder organizations in the region to determine the area’s level of preparedness for responding to terrorism.

Kincaid served as executive director of the bipartisan U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations in Washington, D.C., from 1987 until 1994, when he joined the Lafayette faculty. He is an elected fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, co-editor of Publius, editor of a 50-book series on Governments and Politics of the American States, member of the editorial board of The State Constitutional Law Bulletin published by the National Association of Attorneys General, and president of the International Association of Centers for Federal Studies.

He is a recipient of the Donald Stone Distinguished Scholar Award from the Section on Intergovernmental Administration and Management of the American Society of Public Administration; coeditor of Competition Among States and Local Governments: Efficiency and Equity in American Federalism (1991); editor of Political Culture, Public Policy and the American States (1982); and author of various works on federalism and intergovernmental relations.

Kincaid was named Distinguished Federalism Scholar in 2001 by the American Political Science Association, recognizing his outstanding scholarly contributions to the study of federalism and intergovernmental relations. The association is the major professional society for the study of politics, government, and public policy in the United States and around the world.

Also that year, Kincaid directed an education program on federalism in April and May for Marina Spiliotopoulou, Counsel of the Republic in the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic of Cyprus. Emphasizing law and law enforcement in the United States, the program was administered through AMIDEAST in Washington, D.C., and was a component of the U.S. Fulbright Cyprus-America Scholarship Program, an international training project funded by the U.S. State Department.

Kincaid serves as a mentor for students conducting research, such as Benjamin, who interacted with 18 Fulbright Scholars from all parts of the world at a Meyner Center institute last summer. In addition to helping with the institute, Benjamin picked up valuable research skills as he helped Kincaid collect information about social, political, and civil rights in 185 nations and conducted a statistical analysis of that data. In addition, Benjamin proofread parts of a book on comparative federal constitutions that Kincaid is editing for the Ottawa, Canada-based International Forum of Federations.

Their collaboration was funded by Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholars Program, in which students receive a stipend to assist faculty with research. The program has helped to make Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the more than 160 students who participate in EXCEL each year go on to publish papers in scholarly journals and/or present their research at conferences.

Benjamin, who continued the research during the fall and spring semesters and is resuming it this summer, says he’s glad for the opportunity to work with such a well-respected scholar.

“Dr. Kincaid is a brilliant man,” he says. “He’s also extremely easy to work with. I would describe our relationship as a very comfortable teacher-student bond.”

Kincaid led history and government major Andrea Kotrosits ’03 (Coplay, Pa.) in an examination of the 1963 Community Mental Health Centers Act as part of an intensive research project. She looked at events leading to the act, examined its effectiveness, and studied the evolution of legislation that followed.

“I was really impressed with the research opportunities available at Lafayette,” says Kotrosits, founder of Lafayette’s College Democrats, who is attending graduate school at George Washington University. “I was excited to work closely with a professor and conduct in-depth research. Students at larger colleges do not have this opportunity.”

Kincaid holds a Ph.D. in political science from Temple University. He was associate professor of political science at the University of North Texas from 1979-94 and has also taught at Arizona State University, Seton Hall University, and St. Peter’s College. He has lectured and consulted on issues of constitutionalism, federalism, intergovernmental relations, and regional and local governance in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.

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