Program interests

The Foundation's Board, on occasion, undertakes to define and redefine its current program interests.  At present, the Foundation aims to encourage projects that focus on cultivating a renewed, healthier, and more vigorous sense of citizenship among the American people, and among peoples of other nations, as well.  The free society so central to the convictions and success of the Bradley brothers rests upon and is intended to nurture a solid foundation of competent, self-governing citizens, who are understood to be fully capable of and personally responsible for making the major political, economic, and moral decisions that shape their own lives, and the lives of their children.  Such decisions are made on the basis of common sense, received wisdom, traditional values, and everyday moral understandings, which are in turn nurtured and passed on to future generations by healthy families, churches, neighborhoods, voluntary associations, schools, and other value-generating "mediating structures."
This expansive understanding of citizenship is being challenged today, however, by contemporary forces and ideas that regard individuals more as passive and helpless victims of powerful external forces than as personally responsible, self-governing citizens, and that foster a deep skepticism about citizenly values and mediating structures.  Consequently, authority and accountability tend to flow away from citizens toward centralized, bureaucratic, "service-providing" institutions that claim to be peculiarly equipped to cope with those external forces on behalf of their "clients."  This systematic disenfranchisement of the citizen, and the consequent erosion of citizenly mediating structures, pose grave threats to the free society that the Bradley brothers cherished.
In light of these considerations, projects likely to be supported by the Foundation will generally share these assumptions:

  • They will treat free men and women as genuinely self-governing, personally responsible citizens, not as victims or clients.
  • They will aim to restore the intellectual and cultural legitimacy of citizenly common sense, the received wisdom of experience, everyday morality, and personal character, refurbishing their roles as reliable guideposts of everyday life.
  • They will seek to reinvigorate and reempower the traditional, local institutions -- families, schools, churches, and neighborhoods -- that provide training in and room for the exercise of genuine citizenship, that pass on everyday morality to the next generation, and that cultivate personal character.
  • They will encourage decentralization of power and accountability away from centralized, bureaucratic, national institutions back to the states, localities, and revitalized mediating structures where citizenship is more fully realized.

In addition to these thematic considerations, eligible projects will exhibit these features:

  • They may address any arena of public life -- economics, politics, culture, or civil society -- where citizenship as here understood is an important issue.  It is important to note that our view of citizenship is not primarily concerned with promoting civics education, voter awareness or turnout, or similar activities narrowly focused on voting and elections.
  • They may address the problem of citizenship at home or abroad, where the fall of many (and the perpetuation of some) totalitarian regimes has made this issue particularly urgent.
  • In light of our emphasis on decentralization, and considering the Foundation's deep roots in Milwaukee and Wisconsin -- areas with proud traditions of innovation and experimentation in democratic citizenship -- community and state projects will be of particular interest to us.  Such projects will aim to improve the life of the community through increasing cultural and educational opportunities, grassroots economic development, and effective and humane social and health services, reflecting where possible the Foundation's focus on the resuscitation of citizenship.
  • Projects may be actual demonstrations of the resuscitation of citizenship in the economic, political, cultural, or social realms; policy research and writing about approaches encouraging that resuscitation; academic research and writing that explore the intellectual roots of citizenship, its decline, and prospects for revival; and popular writing and media projects that illustrate for a broader public audience the themes of citizenship.

Much of the creative and energetic leadership essential for a renewal of citizenship will be supplied by gifted individuals, who must receive challenging and stimulating programs and instruction at all levels of their education.  The Foundation supports programs that research the needs of gifted children and techniques of providing education for students with superior skills and/or intelligence.  Research programs investigating how learning occurs in gifted children and demonstration programs of instruction are to be considered.