Current 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.