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Summit Objectives

Civic Culture: Explore and address the current state of public discourse, partisanship, and tribalism in America.

Foundations: Discuss shared values essential to a restoration of civic culture.

Applications: Demonstrate and share tools and approaches for the classroom on current public policy issues from diverse viewpoints. Other topics will include the U.S. Constitution, the rule of law, and freedom of expression.

Understanding Each Other: Examine political philosophies—progressive, libertarian, and conservative—and engage with leading scholars and educators on how to communicate effectively with, and understand the viewpoints of, audiences with diverse perspectives. Adherents of the various political philosophies will explain the ways in which those philosophies are often misunderstood.

Policy Discussions: Analyze key policy issues from diverse perspectives with an emphasis on shared values and common objectives, guided by scholars from leading public policy organizations and academic institutions.

Frequently Asked Questions

About Sphere

Is the Sphere Education Initiative nonpartisan?

The Sphere Education Initiative works with grades 5–12 educators to advance free speech, civil discourse, and civic culture. The project grew out of Project Sphere, a collaboration of the Cato Institute and Brookings Institution, which features discussions of policy issues of the day from three different perspectives.

Our events, educational programming, and professional development opportunities are exclusively nonpartisan. We bring together experts from across the ideological spectrum and from a wide diversity of experiences and backgrounds to engage educators on the most pressing topics of the day. Sphere programming does not advocate for any policy position but strives to inform educators about the breadth and diversity of positions on any given topic so that they are well equipped to support discussion among students.

Who provides the professional development programming for the Sphere Education Initiative?

Sphere works with the premier professional development organizations covering civics, history, economics, and media literacy. All the groups we work with provide exceptional, unbiased, and nonpartisan professional development opportunities for all educators.

How is the Sphere Education Initiative funded?

As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, all funding for Sphere Education Initiatives comes from a wide variety of individual donors and family foundations. Across the board, these are people gravely concerned about the lack of civil discourse in society and the importance of education in America.

What is the relationship between the Sphere Education Initiative and the Cato Institute?

The Sphere Education Initiative is housed at the Cato Institute but is not a part of any of the policy efforts of any of those departments. We are a separate educational project, with strictly nonpartisan and nonideological aims.

Who are the alumni of the Sphere Education Initiative?

Of the over 6,000 alumni of Sphere, the vast majority are public school teachers, most of whom are union members. They represent a wide diversity of subject areas, school types, and ideological backgrounds. What they have in common is a passion for civil discourse and helping their students be more successful. We’re proud of the work that they do.


What are my responsibilities as a participant?

Participants are expected to attend all the sessions during the Sphere Summit. This includes lectures, workshops, breakouts, and meals that are scheduled during the Summit. Participants will receive a certificate of completion as well as complimentary copies of all books, Summit materials, and classroom resources.

What are the accommodations for Summit participants?

Participants will stay at the Courtyard by Marriott Washington Downtown/​Convention Center. For the first Summit, the check‐​in date is Sunday, July 14, and the checkout date is Thursday, July 18. For the second Summit, the check‐​in date is Sunday, July 28, and the checkout date is Thursday, August 1. Hotel accommodations are provided only for the duration of the seminar and are by default double occupancy. Room fees and taxes are covered for the nights of July 14–18 and July 24–August 1 respectively. Participants are responsible for additional nights and any hotel incidentals, such as personal expenses, phone calls, room service, or extra meals.

Can family and friends participate?

We are unable to accommodate family and friends.

Can I commute to the Sphere Summit?

Yes. If you live in Washington, DC, or the surrounding areas, you are welcome to commute to the seminar every morning, however parking is unavailable at the Cato Institute and is limited in the surrounding neighborhood.

Can I defer my acceptance to next year?

No, you cannot defer your position. We encourage you to apply again but cannot guarantee your acceptance at a later time.

How many professional development hours are available?

A determination of professional development hours will be made when the final program is released closer to the start of the program.

Costs, Reimbursements, and Cancellation

What expenses am I responsible for?

There is no fee to attend the Summit, but an application is required. The Cato Institute will provide a $500 stipend to offset the cost of travel expenses upon the completion of the Summit. Participants are responsible for any travel expenses that exceed that amount. Participants should be prepared to pay for all personal expenses, additional nights, and incidentals, such as phone calls, room service, or extra meals.

What expenses does the Cato Institute pay for?

The Cato Institute provides room and board for four days for in‐​person attendees, starting with dinner on Sunday, July 14, and ending with breakfast on Thursday, July 18, for the first Summit and starting with dinner on Sunday, July 24, and ending with breakfast on Thursday, August 1, for the second Summit.

Each in‐​person seminar participant is eligible to receive a stiped of $500 upon completion of the Summit. Please note that we are unable to provide supplemental funding in cases where the stipend is insufficient to cover all travel expenses. Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements to and from the Summit. Failure to complete the Summit may result in a delay or denial of the stipend.

What is the cancellation policy?

If, for some reason, you are unable to attend the Sphere Summit, you must notify Cato in writing of your cancellation as soon as possible to allow for another recipient to be invited. If you cancel, you agree to pay a $75 cancellation fee. You will also assume this charge if you fail to attend all scheduled events, engage in disruptive behavior toward other attendees or hotel guests, or are responsible for any destruction of property. Please note that the fee for cancellation will increase to $250 within two weeks of the start of Summit (June 28 and July 12).

Applications and Deadlines

What is the application deadline, and when will I be notified of whether I have been selected?

Applicants will be notified of their status on a rolling basis, typically within 3–4 weeks of submitting. The deadline for applications is Friday, June 28, at 11:59 p.m. EDT or whenever Summit has reached capacity, whichever comes first. Applicants who are accepted will be directed to registration information.

Can I apply to both Summits?

Applicants may only apply to and attend one Summit.

Which Summit should I apply for?

Both Sphere Summits for 2024 are open to all educators and administrators in grades 5–12. Educators from across all disciplines and subject areas are eligible to apply. Groups of educators from the same school are particularly encouraged. Each Summit will offer distinct programming to meet the needs of both middle and high school educators as well as educators teaching either on grade level or advanced courses like AP or IB. Please apply to the Summit that works best for your schedule.


Who is eligible to apply to the Sphere Summit?

Grades 5–12 educators and administrators from schools currently teaching in the United States may apply to the Sphere Summit.

Can more than one educator apply from a given school?

Yes, educators from the same school may attend the Sphere Summit. Whole departments and colleagues from across schools are strongly encouraged to apply.


Should I bring a laptop or tablet?

Participants are encouraged to bring their own laptop computers or tablets for notetaking and workshops, but not required.

Will there be internet access?

Yes, complimentary wireless internet access is available at the Cato Institute and at the hotel.