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Uncensored: U of Chicago makes free speech its hallmark

Maroon2

Anton Ford, a philosophy professor associated with UofC Resists, leads chants at an event featuring Corey Lewandowski. Feng Ye/The Chicago Maroon

Media literacy, thorough event planning emphasized on hyper-tolerant campus

By CHRISTOPHER HEIMERMAN
For Illinois Press Association

CHICAGO – No American university is more committed to free speech on campus than the University of Chicago, according to a recent FIRE student survey.

Whether or not faculty and administrators are Spider-Man buffs, they subscribe to the sage advice of Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

“This is important: Our faculty are not the kind of faculty that will just invite a speaker to come and have free reign,” Dean of Students Michele Rasmussen said. “It’s usually a defined program, where it’s an atmosphere for those ideas to be challenged.”

The university scored highest out of the 55 universities that took part in the survey conducted by The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit focused on protecting free speech rights on campuses.

The survey covered universities’ openness, how willing they are to invite a speaker to address controversial issues, self-expression and administrative support.

Geoffrey Stone (left), an Edward H. Levi distinguished law professor who’s filled various leadership positions at the university during his 47-year tenure, says the university has emphasized First Amendment rights since its inception in 1890.

GeoffreyStoneIn 2014, the university’s president, Robert Zimmer, addressed a nationwide trend of free speech challenges at universities by enlisting Stone and other distinguished professors to draft a statement clearly spelling out that under virtually no circumstances the university would prohibit free speech.

The “Chicago Principles” have since been adopted by 70-plus universities, including Princeton, Columbia, and multiple Big Ten universities, including the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, which ranked 42nd in the survey. The University of Wisconsin was a notch above at 41st, and the U of I-Chicago was 44th.

The universities effectively lopped off the first half of the principles, which pertained to the University of Chicago specifically, but kept the universal elements.

Stone said arrogance often gets in the way of sharing intellectual property among higher education, “so adopting another’s statement is hard to do.”

Further, he said, universities have to be prepared for students and faculty who oppose expression of free speech from opposing or extreme viewpoints.

“It takes a good deal of courage, frankly,” Stone said. “It does piss off a lot of people.”

 

Media literacy is key

The crux of the “Chicago Principles” is summarized nicely in the document’s reference to a dissenting
opinion from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in a Sedition Act case in 1918.

“... The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas – that the best test of truth is the
power of the thought to get itself accepted in the free competition of the market,” the dissent reads.
Stone said free expression was integral to desegregation, interracial marriage, and the women’s rights
movements.

“They would have been flat-out rejected without hesitation at different times in the past,” he said.

He said the university was among the first to offer benefits for gay marriages.

“At a point in the past, that would have been regarded as absurd,” Stone said. “Because we have allowed the advocacy of those challenging positions, we’ve learned and changed our minds about things. We always have to be open to challenges.”

The difference today, he readily concedes, is the speed at which information, and misinformation, travels. Five years ago, Stone began teaching a Freedom of Speech course that keyed on vetting information.

“We live in an environment where it’s more important than ever for people to be skeptical,” Stone said.

As baseless claims and conspiracy theories flood the media – both social media and broadcasts and print publications – consumers must scrutinize the content.

“Our students are living in that society. That’s the reality of the world we’re living in,” Stone said.

He said shielding students from misinformation fails to prepare them for the real world.

Three years ago, the university retooled its orientation program to emphasize media literacy to new students as soon as they arrived on campus. Not coincidentally, the university borrowed heavily from the orientation program of Purdue University – one of the first institutions to adopt and adapt the “Chicago Principles.”

MicheleRasmussen“We sort of returned the favor,” Rasmussen (left) said, laughing.

In a large venue, faculty, students and special guests speak, do a Q&A session and role-play. Videos of such figures as Barack Obama are shown. It’s all done in an hour.

“It’s not too preachy, and it brings some abstract concepts down to a level students can understand,” Rasmussen said. “It’s not effective to have a bunch of talking-head administrators.”

It was obviously difficult to conduct orientation virtually, she said. Another challenge has been meeting students at their level, given that about two-thirds of the University of Chicago’s students are graduate students.

“One could argue they’re even more diverse than undergrads,” Rasmussen said. “They represent different age groups, some have families, and they’re from different countries.”

Rasmussen said interactive modules have been built, and much of the First Amendment work has been folded into curriculum and separate exercises. For instance, the law school had its students write a speech code.

“It ended up looking a lot like the ‘Chicago Principles,’ ” Rasmussen said.

 

Infrastructure keeps events ‘on the rails’

Controversial figures are more than welcome to speak at a campus event – as long as they’re willing to be rebutted.

Many such events at the University of Chicago have failed to materialize, because speakers have refused to take part in a debate or a Q&A session.

“It wasn’t because of the political views,” Rasmussen said. “They weren’t willing to have the back-and-forth discourse.”

She said the university has “hundreds, if not thousands” of speakers on campus, and that faculty and administration collaborate to know what’s on the calendar and plan each event in such a way that “it doesn’t go off the rails.”

They designate protest areas, train staff to de-escalate situations, and provide ample security. Disrupting events is not allowed, and if interrupters persist, they’re removed.

“We take events management and planning very seriously,” Rasmussen said. “When you see a lot of events on a college campus that goes off the rails, when you dig a little deeper, it’s usually because of bad planning of the event. You need to do that work up front to ensure you have the kind of event you want.”

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MaroonHead

After kids broke a piñata that represented Donald Trump by hitting it with a long stick, the head of the piñata hung in front of the protesters. Feng Ye / The Chicago Maroon 

Rasmussen said the university has “had plenty of dust-ups over the years,” but its employees will neither be gagged nor disciplined for exercising their First Amendment rights.

“That just doesn’t happen at the University of Chicago,” she said. “This is not the kind of place where you’re going to see administrative overreach.”

Stone conceded it’s challenging to tell students and faculty they will hear ideas they find offensive, even revolting.

“That’s not easy, and the reason they have to learn to do that is they cannot trust anyone in positions of authority to decide what ideas cannot be spoken,” he said.

He and Rasmussen emphasized the university provides “safe spaces”, which are spelled out in the principles as various student organizations.

“You don’t have to just sit there, take it, and feel upset,” Rasmussen said. “There are places you can take your concerns, and get support. We do have safe places, where students can step out of a controversial situation.”

 

‘A slightly cynical point of view’

Rasmussen said there isn’t a threshold at which the university will determine a point of view too outrageous to be allowed on campus.

That doesn’t sit well with Caroline Kubzansky, a fourth-year senior who’s worked for The Maroon student newspaper since she set foot on campus. She’s now the managing editor, and is skeptical of the university’s motivations.

“I take a slightly cynical point of view on the university’s emphasis on free speech,” she said. “The university’s efforts have struck me as a marketing scheme.”

She said a culture of curiosity is a good thing, and that universities deserve credit for thinking outside the box, and outside the domain of scholars. But she thinks the university’s policy is perhaps too tolerant.

“[The Chicago Principles] is a way of saying that people don’t immediately tar and feather conservatives for what they have to say,” she said. “Sometimes it might be too good at not tarring and feathering people with reprehensible viewpoints.”

The university does not require its professors to provide content warnings before they introduce content that’s bound to be offensive to some, if not repulsive or potentially incendiary.

Kubzansky said that while she respects the policy, she’s grateful all the professors she’s had alert their students

“Most professors who care about that stuff will put it in anyway,” she said. “In the circles I run, it’s called manners. Try not to blindside someone with something offensive.

"The world is awful enough as it is.”

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Press Releases

Illinois State Bar Association announces
Rural Practice Fellowship Program fellows
 


May 6, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Rhys Saunders, senior manager of communications
rsaunders@isba.org

217-747-1433
 

Editors: Please note local interest.

The Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) is pleased to announce the names of the 14 Fellows selected to participate in the 2021 Rural Practice Fellowship Program, which is designed to meet the critical need of providing access to justice for those living in rural areas with a declining lawyer population.

“We were extremely pleased with the overwhelming response to this program from throughout the state of Illinois,” said ISBA President Dennis J. Orsey. “The demand far exceeded our first-year expectations.”

The ISBA Special Committee on the Rural Practice Initiative created two fellowship programs to address the issue.

The Rural Practice Summer Fellows Program connects law students with rural practitioners to give them experience working in rural communities before they leave law school. The program includes a $5,000 fellowship stipend and mentoring.

The Rural Practice Associate Fellows Program places graduating law students and new attorneys as permanent associates with rural practitioners. The program includes a $5,000 stipend at the beginning of employment, and an additional $5,000 stipend if the associate is still working for the same firm after one year.

2021 Summer Fellows:

Fellow: Jacquelin Pulak (Northern Illinois University College of Law)
Firm: Berger Law Firm, LLC, Byron, Illinois (Ogle County)

Fellow: Alex Pullen (University of Illinois College of Law)
Firm: McGrath Law Office, P.C., Mackinaw, Illinois (Tazewell County)

Fellow: Emily Wiedeman (Loyola University Chicago School of Law)
Firm: Heller, Holmes & Associates, P.C., Mattoon, Illinois (Coles County)

Fellow: Avery Lubbes (Saint Louis University School of Law)
Firm: Stumpf & Gutknecht, P.C., Columbia, Illinois (Monroe County)

2021 Associate Fellows:

Fellow: Paul Loss Dunham (University of Illinois)
Firm: Becker Law Office, Genoa, Illinois (DeKalb County)

Fellow: Glenn Hoskin (Loyola University Chicago)
Firm: Tobin & Ramon, Belvidere, Illinois (Boone County)

Fellow: Tristyn Criswell (Northern Illinois University)
Firm: The Cosentino Law Firm, St. Charles, Illinois (DeKalb County)

Fellow: Staci Vazquez (Northern Illinois University)
Firm: Malmquist, Geiger & Durkee LLC, Morris, Illinois (Grundy County)

Fellow: Elizabeth Reynolds (Southern Illinois University)
Firm: Jacob J. Frost, Attorney at Law, Spring Valley, Illinois (Bureau County)

Fellow: Tiffany Ketchum (Southern Illinois University)
Firm: Vawter Law Ltd., Macomb, Illinois (McDonough County)

Fellow: Megan Ryan (University of Mississippi)
Firm: Rammelkamp Bradney, P.C., Jacksonville, Illinois (Morgan County)

Fellow: Jacob Schlosser (Saint Louis University)
Firm: Woods & Bates, P.C., Lincoln, Illinois (Logan County)

Fellow: Edward Siemer (Saint Louis University)
Firm: McDevitt, Osteen, Chojnicki & Deters, LLC, Effingham, Illinois (Effingham County)

Fellow: Parker Louis Seely (Saint Louis University)
Firm: Bigham, Tanner & Foster, Pinckneyville, Illinois (Perry County)
 

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Serving people with disabilities in Illinois


April 27, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: John Herring, executive director, Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living
101 W. Old State Capitol Plaza
Suite 501
Springfield, IL 62701

217-525-1308
john.herring@illinoiscils.org
 

Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living is a network of people with various disabilities who connect statewide. The 22 Centers for Independent Living that make up INCIL share information, skills and experiences. While supporting each other, barriers to inclusion are removed and Independence achieved. People acquire methods to remain in their home and many financially trapped in nursing facilities are freed.

INCIL has been connecting people who have disabilities statewide since 1995. It is the hub for Independent Living services, while monitoring and educating our state about disability issues. All these organizations are “consumer controlled” run by and for people with disabilities. Each center is responsive to their communities’ needs and INCIL brings people together in this network of cross disability purpose with strength from unity. For more information call 217-525-1308 or go to INCIL.org.

 


 

 
 

 

Alliance For Climate Education launches
billboard campaign to grow support for passing
the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA)

 


April 21, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Leah Qusba, executive director, Alliance For Climate Education (ACE)

262-880-8661
leah@acespace.org

CHICAGO – This week, the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) is launching a billboard campaign to create awareness about the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) and mobilize Illinoisans to take action to demand that the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Pritzker pass CEJA in 2021. As we face the dual crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change driven by fossil fuel consumption, it is a critical moment to pass CEJA to help Illinois get positioned for the renewable energy revolution and to bring thousands of clean jobs to Illinois residents.

ACE’s mix of digital and vinyl billboards have been placed in prominent neighborhood and highway locations in the Chicago and Springfield areas, encouraging passersby to take action by going to: PassCEJA.com or “Text CEJA to 42108”. A total of 11 billboards – seven billboards in the Chicago area and four in Springfield – are now viewable.

The Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) is a comprehensive climate and energy bill that centers on equity and puts Illinois on track to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Here’s how passing CEJA will make Illinois a leader in the just transition to renewable energy:

● Creates a path for 100% renewable energy in IL (17,000 MW solar/6,300 MW wind)
● Directs resources and support to BIPOC energy sector workers and contractors
● Invests $2B in clean energy for BIPOC, low income,and environmental justice communities
● Provides $50M/yr in rate relief to low-income consumers
● Puts Illinoisans to work building and maintaining clean energy infrastructure
● Saves consumers $700M/yr through expansions of electric and gas energy efficiency programs
● Supports electrifying the equivalent of 1.2M vehicles by 2030 including public transit & fleets
● Provides electric vehicle (EV) rebates and EV access for low-income communities
● Makes utility profits contingent upon making the grid more affordable, clean, and equitable

The billboards will be visible through the month of April and into early May, mobilizing support for passing the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) while April “Earth Day” month brings our public attention to the climate crisis and opportunities for taking action to ensure a livable planet for generations to come.

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More About Alliance for Climate Education (ACE): ACE’s mission is to educate young people about the science of climate change and empower them to take action. We believe that young people have the power to tip the scales toward just climate solutions that match the scale and urgency of the climate crisis. ACE’s strength is in our work at the intersection of youth, climate, and democracy, taking an integrated approach across all of our programs to empower young people to become effective civic engagement and climate advocacy leaders.

A sample of the billboard creative:

 

 


 

 

Illinois Farm Bureau to fund Illinois Press Foundation grants to student journalism programs

 

April 16, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jeff Rogers, Illinois Press Foundation director

217-241-1300, ext. 286

jrogers@illinoispress.org

 

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Farm Bureau will be the financial sponsor of this year’s Illinois Press Foundation mini-grants program that assists existing media programs at public and private high schools throughout the state.

 

Selected schools receive grants of up to $1,500 from the Illinois Press Foundation to pay for a computer, software or other equipment needed for a high school’s student media program to produce print or online newspapers. School media programs will be receiving application information Monday, with requests due on or before May 14. Funds or equipment will be received in September.

 

“We’re excited to have Illinois Farm Bureau as a partner in this effort,” Illinois Press Foundation Director Jeff Rogers said. “Both of our organizations feel passionate about the opportunity to help young journalist and student news organizations.”

 

The mini-grants program will provide funding or equipment to as many as 15 high school media programs.

 

“Illinois Farm Bureau is really excited to be a part of program that will assist Illinois high school students in developing their writing and reporting skills while also sharing the news of their school,” said Chris Magnuson, executive director of Illinois Farm Bureau’s News and Communication division. “These types of hands-on opportunities typically create future career goals, and it’s exciting to think that some of these students could one day help tell agriculture and rural America’s story.”

 

Jerry Reppert, president of the Illinois Press Foundation Board, called Illinois Farm Bureau’s sponsorship “great news,” and added the mini-grants program has always been special to him.

 

For more information about the Illinois Press Foundation’s mini-grants program, email Rogers at jrogers@illinoispress.org.

 

The Illinois Farm Bureau is a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, a national organization of farmers and ranchers. Founded in 1916, IFB is a non-profit, membership organization directed by farmers who join through their county Farm Bureau. IFB has a total membership of more than 378,237 and a voting membership of 77,909. IFB represents three out of four Illinois farmers.

 

The Illinois Press Foundation is dedicated to promoting and protecting free expression through educational activities that foster the practice and respect of First Amendment principles and values, to enhance the quality of services provided by newspapers to their communities, and to support reading and literacy efforts.

 

The IPF was established in 1982 as the charitable arm of the Illinois Press Association.

 

Its news service, Capitol News Illinois, has provided daily coverage of state government for Illinois’ newspapers since it was formed in 2019.

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Partners in Recovery:
Sangamon County Recovery Oriented System of Care
 


April 8, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Teagan Shull,

217-544-9858, ext. 3108
tshull@fgcinc.org

(Springfield) – Systems of recovery have been forming across the state of Illinois. The goals of these systems?  To support recovery. Family Guidance Centers, Inc. (FGC), a not-for-profit behavioral health care organization that treats and prevents substance use disorders, as well as an array of other behavioral health care concerns, received a grant to create a recovery oriented system of care (ROSC) right here in Sangamon County. What does a ROSC do?

ROSC is a coordinated network of community-based services and supports that is person-centered and builds on the strengths and resiliencies of individuals, families, and communities to achieve recovery and improved health, wellness, and quality of life for those with or at risk of substance use disorders. The central focus of a ROSC is to create an infrastructure, or “system of care”, with the resources to effectively address the full range of substance use disorders within communities. These goals include:  

* Building a culture that builds and nurtures recover
* Building capacity and infrastructure to support a recovery-oriented system of care;
* Developing commitment to implement and sustain a recovery-oriented system of care.


“The goal of a ROSC is to create a system that works for individuals in recovery. This means that individuals in recovery have access to the resources and support they need. Recovery is a lifelong journey not just a 28-day program and individuals, their families and the community all need to work together to support that journey,” said Tegan Shull, program manager of Sangamon County ROSC. “Currently the council is working on conducting a community needs assessment and developing educational materials to facilitate conversations in the community about recovery and start reducing the stigma that surrounds substance use disorders. Recovery truly takes a village and affects the entire community”

"The current system of care is complex and often poses barriers versus points of access. Individuals and family members struggle to navigate services that are disjointed and often times stigmatizing. Sangamon County needs a connected system with multiple points of access to treatment and recovery services,” said Trenda Hedges, manager of Wellness and Recovery Operations for Beacon Health Options. “The phrase ‘nothing about us without us’ has been the chant of individuals in recovery for decades. ROSC creates the opportunity for the voices of those most affected by substance use and misuse to be heard and implemented into a system of care that supports recovery."

Sangamon County Partners in Recovery (ROSC) meets monthly and all are invited to attend. If you or your organization would like to get involved, visit the ROSC website at Sangamon County Partners in Recovery (godaddysites.com) or email Teagan Shull at tshull@fgcinc.org.
 

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120 N 11th St., Springfield, IL 62703, (217) 544-9858
Website: Sangamon County Partners in Recovery (godaddysites.com)
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/SangCoROSC

 
 

 

Illinois midwife bill passes
House Health Care Licensing Committee
 


March 29, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Bukola M. Bello

773-644-1714


After a decades-long fight, a bill to license certified professional midwives in Illinois passed the Illinois House of Representatives Health Care Licensing Committee March 24, 2021.

The bill grants a state license for midwives to assist in safe home births if they attain professional midwife certification, a nationally recognized credential.

The bill has been a long time coming. Variations of this bill have been brought before the legislature nearly every year since the late 1970s. In that same time, 35 states and Washington D.C. have granted licenses to certified professional midwives, many of which also cover the cost through state Medicaid programs.

Nearly 1,000 families in Illinois choose to give birth at home every year. These families may choose to do so due to cultural, philosophical or religious reasons, or because of fear related to trauma and racism.The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased demand for out-of-hospital maternity care providers. Most people seeking out-of-hospital births this year have been left to navigate a market of underground midwives, which offers no state regulated protections for consumers.

People of color also face much higher risk of maternal mortality and other complications than their white counterparts. A recent National Academy of Engineering, Medicine, and Sciences' Birth Settings in America Report indicated that racism not race  is a risk that contributes to poorer outcomes for birthing people of color. Proponents of the bill believe that providing the people of Illinois more access to safe, licensed maternity care providers outside the hospital system can help address this problem.

Isis Rose, a Black mother, anthropologist, birth professional and home birth advocate, of Urbana, Illinois, told Illinois House Health Care Licensing Committee members that she chooses to birth at home because here in Illinois, Black women are six times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.” The disproportionately high rates of negative pregnancy and birth outcomes for black birthing people of color, coined “obstetric racism” by anthropologist Dana-Ain Davis, is the primary reason she and her husband choose to have their babies at home with a certified professional midwife. She relayed that “for all people, especially Black birthing people, to feel comfortable choosing home birth, we need increased access to legal channels of midwifery and greater access to home birth midwives with congruent cultural backgrounds and lived experiences.”

In addressing these numerous issues, the Certified Professional Midwife Practice Act (HB 3401) will regulate the professional conduct of home birth midwives in Illinois by establishing a Midwifery Board and setting rigorous standards for practice; require midwives to meet educational standards supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; regulate the use of life-saving medications and treatments for mothers and newborns to ensure high-quality care for parent and child; allow midwives to screen for possible complications and conditions such as congenital heart defects and hearing disabilities; establish a safe system to transfer care during rare emergencies; and mandate informed consent forms to meet established standards.

Carrie Vickery, of Ottawa, Illinois, and vice president of Illinois Friends of Midwives, a group advocating and lobbying for broader access to midwifery care in Illinois, told state legislators during a March 24, 2021, hearing that the state of Illinois is failing in its duty to appropriately regulate home birth midwifery.

"Each year of delay in licensing and integrating home birth midwives puts consumers at risk," Vickery said. "We are telling you: protect us. Give us licensed certified professional midwives."

Hearing this call, the committee passed the bill with a unanimous vote, and the bill is expected to be brought to the House floor for a vote sometime later this session.

The bill's sponsors in the Illinois House of Representatives are state Reps. Rep.Robyn Gabel (D, Evanston), Anna Moeller (D, Elgin), Michelle Mussman (D, Schaumburg) William Davis (D, East Hazel Crest),Terra Costa-Howard (D, Lombard), Norine K. Hammond (R, Macomb), Kelly M. Cassidy (D, Chicago), Bob Morgan (D, Highwood), LaToya Greenwood (D, East St. Louis), Amy Grant (R, Wheaton), Lance Yednock (D, Ottawa), Steven Reick (R, Woodstock), Daniel Didech (D, Buffalo Grove), Michael T. Marron (R, Danville), Maurice A. West, II (D, Rockford), Thomas Morrison (R, Palatine), Rita Mayfield (D, Waukegan), Michael Halpin (D, Rock Island), Kathleen Willis (D, Northlake), Brad Halbrook (R, Shelbyville), Edgar Gonzalez, Jr. (D, Summit), Mark Batinick (R, Plainfield), Randy E. Frese (R, Quincy), Theresa Mah (D, Chicago), Margaret Croke (D, Chicago), Stephanie A. Kifowit (D, Aurora), Janet Yang Rohr (D, Naperville), Lindsey LaPointe (D, Chicago) and Suzanne Ness (D, Carpentersville).


 

receive recognition for their accomplishments”.

FCCLA’s 75thanniversary is a major milestone for the organization and FCS education. Whether one is looking to feel confident in the kitchen, make a difference in their community, or prepare for career success, FCCLA and FCS is the secret ingredient to succeed in the home and workplace.

Research Sources:

Tufts University: https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/general-nutrition/28-of-americans-cant-cook

WZDX Fox: https://www.rocketcitynow.com/article/news/what-ever-happened-to-home-ec-millennials-struggling-with-home-and-nutrition-skills/525-7f8fd87d-2134-408f-909b-4687ba46b496

About FCCLA

Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) is a dynamic and effective national student organization that helps young men and women become leaders and address important personal, family, work, and societal issues through Family and Consumer Sciences education. FCCLA has more than182,000 members and 5,253 chapters from 48 state associations, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.


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