Post-Event Discussion:”For Democracy’s Future: Education Reclaims Our Civic Mission.” We invite all to join us on facebook and twitter @DemocracyU and convene a local debate on the importance of higher education’s civic mission.

Reinventing Citizenship and the Role of Education

Citizenship has different meanings. For some citizenship means voting. Some see it as a legal status, or obeying the law, or being a good person and a role model. To others it means respecting those of different views and backgrounds.  “Productive citizenship” means making a public contribution through work, paid or unpaid – one can be a citizen teacher, a citizen business owner, or a citizen homemaker.There is no single “right answer” to the question, “what is a citizen?”People also have different views on where education for citizenship takes place. Some see families as the main “school for citizenship.” Other stress schools, colleges, universities or religious congregations. Many see all these playing important though differing roles.
 
This discussion is intended to begin an ongoing national conversation on the topic of what is citizenship, what role does civic education and engagement play in being a citizen and how do we educate for it?

Some questions to get you started:

  • If you were explaining the responsibilities that come with being an American citizen to a visitor from another country, what would you say?
  • As citizens, what do you think we owe to future generations?
  • What are the roles and responsibilities of different groups (e.g. families, schools, colleges or universities) in educating citizens?
  • What are your ideas for how we can learn to listen to each other and work together across partisan and other divides?
  • What are the skills and values of 21st century citizenship? Do we have new or additional responsibilities that we didn’t have in the past?
  • Do you think it’s important for students to get involved in civic work on campus and in their communities at large?
  • How can civic engagement benefit our democracy as a whole?
Suggested reading materials and resources:
 
A Crucible Moment: Civic Learning and America’s Future
DemocracyU- American Commonwealth Partnership’s website.
Center for Democracy and Citizenship The Center for Democracy and Citizenship collaborates with a variety of partners to promote active citizenship and public work by people of all ages. The center’s work is grounded in the belief that a healthy democracy requires everyone’s participation, and that each of us has something to contribute.
National Issues Forums InstituteNational Issues Forums (NIF) is a network of civic, educational, and other organizations, and individuals, whose common interest is to promote public deliberation in America. It has grown to include thousands of civic clubs, religious organizations, libraries, schools, and many other groups that meet to discuss critical public issues. Forum participants range from teenagers to retirees, prison inmates to community leaders, and literacy students to university students.NIF does not advocate specific solutions or points of view but provides citizens the opportunity to consider a broad range of choices, weigh the pros and cons of those choices, and meet with each other in a public dialogue to identify the concerns they hold in common.

Highlights From

A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future

A report from the National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement


In response to widespread concern about the nation’s anemic civic health, A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future calls for investing in higher education’s capacity to make civic learning and democratic engagement widely shared national priorities.  The report calls on higher education and many partners in education, government, and public life to advance a 21st century conception of civic learning and democratic engagement as an expected part of every student’s college education.

 A New Vision for Civic Learning in Higher Education

An earlier definition of civic education stressed familiarity with the various branches of government and acquaintance with basic information about U.S. history.  This is still essential but no longer nearly enough.  Americans still need to understand how their political system works and how to influence it.  But they also need to understand the cultural and global contexts in which democracy is both deeply valued and deeply contested.  Moreover, the competencies basic to democracy  cannot be learned only by studying books; democratic knowledge and capabilities are honed through hands-on, face-to-face, active engagement in the midst of differing perspectives about how to address common problems that affect the well-being of the nation and the world.

Civic learning that includes knowledge, skills, values, and the capacity to work with others on civic and societal challenges can help increase the number of informed, thoughtful, and public-minded citizens well  prepared to contribute in the context of the diverse, dynamic, globally connected United States.  Civic learning should prepare students with knowledge and for action in our communities.

Components of 21st century civic learning should include:

  • Knowledge of U.S. history, political structures, and core democratic principles and founding documents; and debates—US and global—about their meaning and application;
  • Knowledge of the political systems that frame constitutional democracies and of political levers for affecting change;
  • Knowledge of diverse cultures and religions in the US and around the world;
  • Critical inquiry and reasoning capacities;
  • Deliberation and bridge-building across differences;
  • Collaborative decision-making skills;
  • Open-mindedness and capacity to engage different points of view and cultures;
  • Civic problem-solving skills and experience
  • Civility, ethical integrity, and mutual respect.
To advance this vision, The National Task Force urges Americans to:
  1. Reclaim and reinvest in the fundamental civic and democratic mission of schools and of all sectors within higher education
  2. Enlarge the current national narrative that erases civic aims and civic literacy as educational priorities contributing to social, intellectual, and economic capital
  3. Advance a contemporary, comprehensive framework for civic learning—embracing US and global interdependence—that includes historic and modern understandings of democratic values, capacities to engage diverse perspectives and people, and commitment to collective civic problem-solving
  4. Capitalize upon the interdependent responsibilities of K-12 and higher education to foster progressively higher levels of civic knowledge, skills, examined values, and action as expectations for every student
  5. Expand the number of robust, generative civic partnerships and alliances locally, nationally, and globally to address common problems, empower people to act, strengthen communities and nations, and generate new frontiers of knowledge

A Crucible Moment provides specific campus examples illustrating how to move from “partial transformation to pervasive civic and democratic learning and practices.”

See www.aacu.org/civic_learning/crucible for full report; see Chapter 3 for full set of recommendations.


[1] Adapted from the National Issues Forums Institute


3 Comments on “Post-Event Discussion:”For Democracy’s Future: Education Reclaims Our Civic Mission.” We invite all to join us on facebook and twitter @DemocracyU and convene a local debate on the importance of higher education’s civic mission.”

  1. In the posting above, the DemocracyU author (anonymous?) said:

    “This discussion is intended to begin an ongoing national conversation on the topic of what is citizenship, and how do we educate for it.”

    To which I ask:

    Will you use the Internet to allow citizens to participate in this “ongoing national conversation”? (And not just an an email-dropbox for a person to send suggetions.)

    Do you have an online forum that can handle _longer_and_deeper_discussions_ than can be handled on a blog, Twitter or Facebook?

    BTW: I moderate an email-discussion on Googlegroups about how to measure progress in Public Engagement at http://www.OpenGovMetrics.com

    best,
    Stephen Buckley
    http://twitter.com/OpenGovMetrics


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