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New director at Center for Political Thought and Leadership seeks to drive civic education mission forward


Lucian Spataro, interim director, Center for Political Thought and Leadership

Lucian Spataro has been named the interim director for the Center for Political Thought and Leadership at ASU.

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September 25, 2020

The Center for Political Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University has named Lucian Spataro as its new interim director to lead the center’s mission of enhancing civic education in schools across the country. 

Spataro will be responsible for overseeing the center’s civic education initiatives, as well as the center’s fundraising goals and efforts to establish national partnerships highlighting the importance of civic education in schools and communities around the country. 

“Now that Lucian is with our center and school at ASU, he is leading our efforts to forge a new national coalition of the varied views in the civics education space — in order to emphasize that, while we may differ on means and on the precise priority among shared goals, we share the crucial goal to improve the quality of and priority for citizenship education,” said Paul Carrese, director for the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, which is where the the center is housed. 

Previously, Spataro served as the CEO of the Joe Foss Institute, where for seven years he led the Scottsdale-based nonprofit's efforts to increase the priority for civics in schools. In that time, Spataro and the Joe Foss Institute worked side-by-side with legislators in more than 30 states — including Arizona — to craft legislation requiring high school students  to pass the same test required of new citizens of the United States. 

Spataro worked closely with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to help craft the state’s civic education legislation, named the American Civics Act, which was passed in January 2015. Arizona became the first state to enact such legislation, and the bill would become a model for other states around the country. 

“As a direct result of the work that Lucian has done in America and nationally to advance civics education, millions of students are becoming informed and engaged citizens,” Ducey said. 

Carrese added, “A basic floor of civic knowledge should be expected of all American citizens; from this basis, more complex curricula can be developed nationally and in each state. This idea has revolutionized the debate about civics education in America in just a few years.” 

The Joe Foss Institute also established its Veterans Inspiring Patriotism program, where veterans from around the country would visit public schools to discuss their experiences in the armed forces. The goal was not to recruit students into the military, but to have a discussion of civic duty and patriotism. 

“My role at the Center for Political Thought and Leadership is an opportunity to continue our work and build on earlier efforts to bring attention to the civics crisis and ensure that the principles of our republic — and the founding framework that allows America to flourish — are not forgotten and lost,” Spataro said. “Ultimately, we are working to position civics back on the front burner as an important and equally emphasized discipline. One that is taught, tested and properly funded, so our students graduate as informed, engaged and responsible citizens.”

The Joe Foss Institute merged into the Center for Political Thought and Leadership in November 2019 as part of a collaboration agreement. The Joe Foss Institute's civic education initiatives, as well as its Veterans Inspiring Patriotism program, have continued under the ASU Center for Political Thought and Leadership in collaboration with the faculty and staff of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. 

Spataro, who graduated from the University of Arizona and completed a master’s degree and PhD from Ohio University, was also recently named a Medal of Merit recipient from his alma mater. Ohio University awards the medal to alumni who have achieved distinction in their fields. 

“(Lucian’s) efforts in bringing the important discipline of civics education back to the forefront of our classrooms has made great strides towards solving the ‘quiet crisis’ that undermines the future of our nation,” Ducey said. “Lucian’s accomplishments have bettered the future for both the state of Arizona and America.” 

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