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May 24, 2011

Williamsburg James City County Schools Becomes First School Division In Nation to Adopt “The Idea of America,” Colonial Williamsburg’s New Interactive U.S. History and Citizenship Program

Williamsburg James City County Schools is the first school district in the nation to adopt Colonial Williamsburg’s interactive, fully digital, Web-based curriculum “The Idea of America” for implementation in the 2011–2012 school year. The announcement was made today by Colin G. Campbell, president and CEO of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation at a breakfast for community leaders at the Williamsburg Lodge.

“‘The Idea of America’ is the most ambitious educational outreach initiative Colonial Williamsburg has undertaken to date. We couldn’t be more pleased that Williamsburg James City County Schools is the first school district in the country to implement this program in its classrooms,” said Campbell. “This entirely digitally based secondary school history and civics curriculum links the founding principles established here in Williamsburg, critical moments across American history and the events of today. As students examine the case studies created by our staff of educators and teachers across the country, they will discover that Americans have been debating fundamental principles since the Revolutionary era.”

“It seems only fitting that our school division, which serves the residents of the area that is such an instrumental part of what this excellent curriculum teaches, is the first public school district to participate in the program,” noted WJCC Superintendent Dr. Steven M. Constantino. “This is another significant step toward our goal of becoming a premier school division as we bring learning further into the 21st century.”

“Colonial Williamsburg representatives will begin training our staff when the coming school year begins,” said Dr. Dianna Lindsay, WJCC’s assistant superintendent for academic affairs. “We look forward to using it in our classrooms later in the year.”

Through “The Idea of America,” students learn lessons from history and the principles of American citizenship by exploring 65 individual case studies of the nation’s most important historical events, debating issues that changed America. To support the lessons, teachers select from among resources and interactive tools including dramatic readings of key text, documentaries and interviews with contemporary figures. In addition, primary sources of enduring significance such as newspapers, works of art, diaries, journal entries, speeches and wills also are utilized.

Four pairs of contrasting American values – unity and diversity, private wealth and common wealth, law and ethics, and freedom and equality – are presented to guide the discussion of each case study. Each study links to a current event website where students can examine the issues in the context of the current political and social debate.

For example, students might investigate America as a nation of laws, but also grapple with the understanding that laws are not always ethical, as was the case with the Jim Crow laws that discriminated against African Americans. They will learn that lawbreakers like Rosa Parks sparked the Civil Rights movement by challenging the ethics of the law, thereby changing the lives of millions of Americans.

Other case study examples, which are available to review online, include The Great Debate over what it means to be a citizen that continues since before the Revolution, Jacksonian America, and Reagan and the end of the Cold War.

Colonial Williamsburg’s interactive program, “Virtual Republic,” also can be integrated into “The Idea of America,” providing the opportunity for students in one region of the country to discuss and debate their findings and conclusions with students from another region. With social networking tools, students will post their ideas, creating a nationwide discussion forum. During this process, classrooms will work to develop positions and viewpoints that they can carry forward into their communities, giving students an opportunity to actively participate in the responsibilities of every citizen.

“The Idea of America” has been in development for more than five years. Significant philanthropic support was provided by the late Frank Batten Sr. and the Batten Foundation, Virginia Beach, Va.; Sally B. and Theodore W. Brickman, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.; Letitia and the late Edward C. Joullian III, Oklahoma City, Okla.; Marcia H. Randall, Portland, Ore.; Theresa A. and Lawrence C. Salameno, Allendale, N.J.; Lois and the late Richard Vieser, Walpole, N.H.; and Marion and Robert S. Wilson, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

Colonial Williamsburg has partnered with Pearson, the world’s leading education technology company, as exclusive distributor. To learn more about “The Idea of America,” including sample case studies and author videos, visit or follow “Colonial Williamsburg’s The Idea of America” on Facebook.

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves, interprets and presents the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Colonial Williamsburg demonstrates its commitment to expanding its thought-provoking programming as well as its dedication to cultural and historical authenticity and education outreach on-site and online. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Media Contact:
Barbara Brown
(757) 220-7280