Call For Civic Learning

Glenn Ricketts

That’s the title of this piece posted today over at IHE, announcing the release of a new report tasking American higher education with bolstering “civic learning and democratic engagement.” The report, A Crucible Moment, was commissioned in 2010 by the US Department of Education, prepared by the National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement, and is being presented today at the White House.

You can access the full text here. Do have a look. In the minds of the authors, “civic engagement” is important enough to be integrated through the entire curriculum, not confined to a single course or left as optional.

Your reaction will depend on how you understand “civic learning” and “democratic engagement.” I’d like to think that I promote those very things in my American Government and Politics course. Students should indeed know who their legislative representatives at all levels of government are, how the president is elected, that it is Congress and not the President which has the power to declare war, that car insurance rates are not set by the federal government, etc. They should also have a good basic grasp of American history, some comparative perspective with other political systems and how democracies survive or perish.

But given the current lopsided ideological imbalance in the academy, and the report’s frequent references to “systemic change,” “social justice,” and “global interdependence,” I’m pretty sure what “civic engagement” is likely to consist of on most campuses. It doesn’t much resemble my approach.

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