The Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship is an extension of the teaching mission of Hillsdale College to Washington, D.C. Its purpose is to teach the Constitution and the principles that give it meaning. Through the study of original source documents from American history—and of older books that formed the education of America's founders—the Center will seek to inspire students, teachers, citizens, and policymakers to return the Constitution to its central place in the political life of the nation.
The model for such work can be seen both in the example of America's Founders and in the example of those who have sought most effectively to undo their work. Both began their work in learning, and both spread their message by teaching. Both looked to education, and the kind of statesmanship it inspires, to make their gaines long lasting.
America's founders emphasized a citizen education that centered on an understanding of natural rights, and thus of the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Progressives, beginning in the nineteenth century, believed that those principles were outmoded. Consequently, they placed their emphasis on educating experts who could manage citizens' lives better—or so they supposed—than citizens could themselves.
With progressivism ascendant in education, unfamiliarity with America's founding principles is now a problem, especially among those who lead our nation. The urgent task, then, is simply to recover knowledge that is lost. Accomplishing that, the propositions advanced by both the Founders and the Progressives are testable by reason and can be compared with real facts in the world.
Abraham Lincoln called for a "return to the fountain whose waters spring close by the blood of the Revolution." Hillsdale College was very much enrolled in the cause of Lincoln in his day. It continues in that cause today.