“For Democracy’s Future: Education Reclaims Our Civic Mission”- White House Event Reinforces The Need For Civic EducationPosted: January 12, 2012
At the White House yesterday, the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan,called on a gathering of civic education, government, business and philanthropy leaders to provide practical civic engagement opportunities for students from grade school to graduate school.
The group, along with other senior Obama Administration officials, were gathered to launch a national conversation “For Democracy’s Future: Education Reclaims Our Civic Mission” focusing on the importance of educating students for informed and engaged citizenship.
“Our young people have an appetite, their committed, they want to be engaged … But somehow we’ve walked away from providing those opportunities,” Duncan said. He added that he sees education as more than ‘book’ knowledge and included teaching students to participate in a vibrant democracy.
“Hands on learning experiences that engage young people in the community and have them, at very early ages start to see the impact they can have, I think, is probably the best way to teach that,”Duncan said.
Skills young people gain through civic engagement –critical thinking, working in diverse teams and asking hard questions – are the same skills that they will need to be successful in the economy.
Duncan also said that when senior college students are surveyed, they feel they have had less opportunities to make a difference during their time in college than when they first entered college. “That passion is there, that desire is there but somehow we’re not meeting that need. So collectively we have to do something very, very different”.
The White House event also marked the release of “A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future,” a new report to the Department of Education from leading civic scholars and practitioners, as well as the Department’s own report, “Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy: A Road Map and Call to Action.”
Event also introduced the new American Commonwealth Partnership, which aims to bring together thousands of universities, colleges, community colleges, schools and other civic partners to promote civic education,civic mission and civic identity throughout all of education in the United States.
Senior Advisor to the President, Valerie Jarrett also spoke and reaffirmed President Obama’s commitment to education. “We hope that this provides us with a launching off point, a catalyst, the beginning of what we hope will be an ongoing engagement.”
Harry Boyte, Director of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College, talked about the importance of “democracy colleges”, which he said would reinvent citizenship for the 21st century. Boyte said moving the ACP (powered by DemocracyU) forward and developing these democracy colleges across the country is critical for the future of education and society in general.
“We see ourselves as responding to the call of the nation, to the crisis of the nation. There is a deep sense that we need to move from a ‘me’ culture to a ‘we’ culture,” Boyte said.
A number of students and graduates also spoke on panels at the event. One, Nikki Cooley, of the Dinesh tribe also known as Navaho, who is a program coordinator at Northern Arizona University, recalled having trouble in math and science and not being interested in it in high school.
“I come from 17 million acres of land where 80 percent of the people don’t have electricity or running water, ” Cooley said. Her parents didn’t get electricity until 2011 (and are still waiting for running water). It was being connected to opportunities that were relevant to her background, she said, that led her to understand how and why math and science mattered to her future.
“I realized I had opportunities that were relevant to my background. That used my background as a Navaho woman … who is concerned about issues on the Navaho reservation and other native communities. Because that is who I am, first and foremost.”
Cooley described how cultivating these interests led her to complete a Master’s in forestry works, and work with climate scientists to learn more about climate change on the Colorado Plateau.
“If I [learned about] that in high school I would have been more inclined to be interested or stay awake in class,” she said. Cooley went on to urge the government and educators to consider relevant cultural educational opportunities when thinking about democracy in colleges and universities.
Bianca Brown, a student at Western Kentucky University and a senior coach at Public Achievement, spoke about the role of students and citizenship.
“It’s not enough to hang an American flag in front of your home and call yourself a citizen,” she said. Brown spoke to the importance of sharing knowledge and “empowering the un-empowered” through activity, and being engaged as a student.
She also said that her university professor, Paul Markham, gave her inspiration and the support she needed to find her voice. “I lived in the projects for ten years but I was always passionate. I always wanted to focus that passion,” Brown told DemocracyU.
It was the encouragement of collaborative work at university that showed her how to focus that passion, she added.
Watch the videos of all speakers at the event :
Read more on Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy at U.S. Dept of Ed: http://www.ed.gov/civic-learning
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.Posted: January 10, 2012
Reinventing Citizenship and the Role of EducationCitizenship 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?
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.
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.
- Reclaim and reinvest in the fundamental civic and democratic mission of schools and of all sectors within higher education
- Enlarge the current national narrative that erases civic aims and civic literacy as educational priorities contributing to social, intellectual, and economic capital
- 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
- 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
- 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.
 Adapted from the National Issues Forums Institute
A Live Event at the White House: The American Commonwealth Partnership and The Department of Education Join To Launch a Year of Citizenship and Civic EducationPosted: January 6, 2012
On January 10th 2012, at the White House, a group of higher education and civic leaders with government officials will launch a year of activities to revitalize the democratic purposes and civic mission of American education.
The event is called: “For Democracy’s Future: Education Reclaims Our Civic Mission.” The Department of Education and the American Commonwealth Partnership (ACP) have joined with the Association of American Colleges and Universities, whose major report to the nation, “A Crucible Moment: Civic Learning and Democracy’s Future”, will also be released on that date.
The year will include a coordinated series of activities – local dialogues, forums, town meetings, and projects fostering civic identity. The goal is to strengthen the role of colleges, schools and other educational groups in educating students to be citizens; in connecting to local communities; and in engaging with the urgent problems of the nation. The year 2012 marks the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, signed by President Abraham Lincoln, which created land grant colleges across America.
“For Democracy’s Future seeks to change the long term dynamic that has led to an ‘ivory tower’ culture in many colleges and universities,” said Harry Boyte, chair of the ACP and Director of the Center for Democracy and citizenship at Augsburg College. “In a time of mounting challenges, the nation, and our local communities, cannot afford to have higher education on the sidelines. It needs to be back in the middle of problem solving and helping to lead a rebirth of citizenship,” he said.
The January 10th event will be streamed live at the White House ( http://www.whitehouse.gov/live. ) Viewers are invited to host their own discussions during the afternoon breakout sessions. More information and a discussion guide will be posted on our site soon.
About the ACP and DemocracyU
The American Commonwealth Partnership is a cross-partisan campaign which is part of a coordinated effort with the White House Office of Public Engagement, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and the Department of Education. The American Commonwealth Partnership (ACP) was formed last year and brings together colleges, universities, community colleges, schools and other civic partners to create a strong “civic identity” in families, schools, professions, colleges and universities.
We are honored to be participating in this national effort to promote higher education’s civic mission.
For more information, please contact Karina Cherfas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re interested in sharing your civic engagement work on our blog, contact Karina Cherfas (email@example.com). Blog posts should be a few hundred words and focused on civic work on and off campus.
These questions can serve as a guideline for the posts:
Briefly describe the type of civic initiatives you are working on:
- Why is this work important to you?
- What have you learned through the experience?
- Why is it important for students to be engaged in civic initiatives?
There is no right or wrong answer, we just want to hear from engaged citizens like you and the impact students’ participation in civic work has on Higher Education and our Democracy.
It is critical that we can bring your voice to the White House and to the Department of Education to show that fixing our democracy is something that young people care deeply about, and have much to contribute to.
DemocracyU is proud to be part of The American Commonwealth Partnership, a broad alliance of higher education, P-12 schools and educational groups, philanthropies, businesses and others, part of a coordinated effort with the White House Office of Public Engagement, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and the Department of Education, to begin a year of activity called, “For Democracy’s Future – Reclaiming Our Civic Mission.” It will kick off on the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, signed by President Lincoln in 1862, another year of crisis in the nation. The Morrill Act created colleges known for their commitment to democracy. As part of the initiative, the Department of Education is preparing a policy initiative to strengthen civic learning and democratic engagement in higher education and education broadly.
DemocracyU, together with ACP, are working to deepen the civic identity of educational institutions, moving engagement from activities to strong commitments to education as a public good.That’s because American students are making a difference. And in the process they’re beginning to co-create the kind of higher education they need and want for the 21st century.
Share your stories and ideas with us and inspire others.
Thank you in advance for your interest and we look forward to hearing from you.