Scholar Named to Coalition of Freedom Advisory Board for the National Constitution Center


By Tom McLaughlin

Alan Tarr, a Board of Governors Professor of Political Science and director of the Center for State Constitutional Studies at Rutgers University–Camden, has been named to the Coalition of Freedom Advisory Board for the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

The esteemed panel of scholars, representing only the highest caliber educational and public-policy research institutions in the United States, will oversee the center’s focus on transforming constitutional education and debate in America.

“I am excited to be a part of this project, because I think that constitutional literacy is very important; it’s an antidote to cynicism about politics, which is widespread throughout the country,” says Tarr, a Princeton resident. “I hope to contribute to educating the next generation of U.S. citizens.”

Thanks to a three-year grant from the John Templeton Foundation, the coalition will aim to increase awareness of the rights set forth in the U.S. Constitution and other founding documents through an online interactive Constitution; playwriting, short story, and essay contests for students; a schedule of on-site and traveling town-hall debates; and a contest that challenges public and independent school teachers to create plans to increase constitutional literacy in their schools.

According to the Rutgers–Camden scholar, the panel is primarily focused on ensuring that students on the high-school and middle-school levels receive the best information regarding the U.S. Constitution and its effects on American citizenry, and are encouraged to have a greater interest in the subject. He notes that considerable survey literature suggests that students don’t have sufficient information. Consequently, the National Constitution Center wants to generate new resources and guarantee that they are available in the classroom for the benefit of teachers and students.

Tarr’s expertise on the development of democratic constitutions is respected globally. He has presented his insights to state Supreme Courts and legislatures across the nation and, under the auspices of such organizations as the U.S. Department of State, around the world. He has promoted the growth of democracy worldwide by advising governments transitioning to democratic rule, including South Africa, Myanmar, and Russia.

His work has appeared in prominent legal and scholarly journals, as well as in multiple books. He edited or co-edited such volumes as State Constitutions for the Twenty-First Century (State University of New York Press), as well as the 50-volume State Constitutions of the United States (Oxford University Press). He also co-authored the highly utilized textbooks American Constitutional Law: Cases and Interpretation (St. Martin’s Press) and Judicial Process and Judicial Policymaking (Cengage Learning).

The Rutgers–Camden scholar is currently conducting research for a forthcoming book, The People’s Constitutions, to be published by Oxford University Press. According to Tarr, the book focuses on popular constitutionalism – the notion that citizens should play an active role in how constitutions are interpreted.

Tarr recently served as the 2013-2014 Ann and Herbert W. Vaughan Visiting Fellow in the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He also earned a Fulbright Fellowship, as well as three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the College of the Holy Cross, and master’s and doctoral degrees, both in political science, from the University of Chicago.

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