KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — It was another busy Thursday at the University of Tennessee Student Union as Governor Bill Lee paid a visit to participate in a forum and to sign the Institute for American Civics Bill into law.
The bill is a $6 million investment in hopes to fight against anti-American thoughts in schools.
“This is an effort that I think it’s going to be a model for the country,” Lee said. “It’s a great opportunity for Tennesseans to have access to an education that will provide us insight.”
Organizing the new institute has been in the works since last year. The governor also announced the institute during his State of the State Address in January but now the project is full steam ahead.
“The institute will be guided by a board of fellows which is a group of bipartisan statesmen from across the state and academic scholars who share an appreciation for the American system and the unique degree of liberty and prosperity that it provides,’ said Lee.
“It’s an American victory,” State Representative Justin Lafferty said. “We need to reinvigorate what the American idea is. It’s been lost it feels like to me, this two-party system has contributed that somewhat.”
The institute will be housed at the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy and UT students will be able to earn degrees from it.
“Our constitutions, our Bill of Rights, our separations of powers, our federalism, they must be protected but they first must be understood and appreciated,” Lee said.
UT System President Randy Boyd said, “The bill is all about bipartisanship. Bringing in both sides of each issue together to have a civil discussion about things that they may disagree on but be able to talk about it in a way that is respectful, open, and transparent.”
“We’ve all fallen in this trap of conformational bias,” Lafferty said. “We only look to learn about things that align with our beliefs I guess you would say. It doesn’t do anything to help the dialogue.”
Most of the $6 million to fund the institute will go towards paying staff. More than 50 jobs are being created.
Boyd said, “In the act, it says we’re going to be following the university’s standards for hiring any faculty or administrator position so we’re going to be following everything we normally do.”
Lee added the institute is going to be a great place for students to practice learning to live with disagreement.