Action needed: Support Democracy in Education

Momentum is building in the American Commonwealth Partnership, and we have a unique opportunity to leverage support for our work. The Center for Democracy and Citizenship has a challenge grant that will match any new and increased gift made by May 31st!

The ACP strives to democratize higher education by opening access, improving curricular and co-curricular teaching and learning, and creating an ethos of  public engagement to make life better for all of us.

So far, generous supporters like you have contributed $13,785 . Help us reach our goal of $20,000 by making a contribution today. Please click here to make a contribution of $50, $100, or $250 today.

The skills needed in both the workplace and our society as a whole require cooperative and productive citizenship to build an equitable, sustainable democracy. To develop such capacities, higher education needs to tap the full participation of all, and integrate science with arts, humanities and design. This requires bold action. ACP develops strategies to help realize these goals.

Higher education must rise to the occasion, and ACP aspires to be the resource and a meeting ground for this great work.

Help us to build a better tomorrow for students and America as a whole. And please spread the word by sharing this link on Facebook,twitter and other social media.

Thank you,

Harry Boyte, National Coordinator, ACP


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


Watch “For Democracy’s Future: Education Reclaims Our Civic Mission” Live from the White House and Join the Conversation

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.

“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 session. Below, please find the event’s program and the discussion guide, for  those groups and individuals  wishing to watch the event and engage in dialogue similar to those discussions taking place in the untelevised  breakout sessions.

Download “Program”

Download “Discussion Guide”

WHAT: For Democracy’s Future: Education Reclaims Our Civic Mission
WHEN: Tuesday, January 10, 2012
TIME: 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM EST (Streaming will be interrupted from approximately 4:00pm EST to 5:30pm EST to accommodate live breakout discussions at the event. Those watching the live stream are encouraged to concurrently participate in discussions using the attached “Discussion Guide” during the break.)
WHERE: www.WhiteHouse.gov/live
RSVP: Email CivicLearning@ed.gov with “Live Stream” in the subject to let us know you’ll view the event online, or with “Satellite Event” in the subject if you will host a viewing session for others.

DemocracyU  is proud to lead ACP’s social media campaign.  We will be posting event’s updates throughout the day on our  Facebook  and Twitter pages and invite everyone to participate in the on-going discussion to promote higher education’s civic mission.

For more information, please contact Karina Cherfas at kcherfas@gmail.com.

http://civicyouth.org/democracyu

www.facebook.com/democracyu

www.twitter.com/democracyu


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 Education

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.

DemocracyU  is proud to lead ACP’s social media campaign. Everyone is  invited to contribute to our blog and to interact on our  Facebook  and Twitter.

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 kcherfas@gmail.com.

http://civicyouth.org/democracyu

www.facebook.com/democracyu

www.twitter.com/democracyu


Realizing the Democratic Mission of Higher Education to Help Realize the Democratic Promise of America for All Americans

By Ira Harkavy

The founding purpose of both colonial colleges  and Historically Black Colleges and Universities was to educate young people for service to others.

Benjamin Franklin, when proposing the curriculum and goals for the college he founded, the University of Pennsylvania, emphatically declared that service was “the great aim and end of all learning.”  Fulfilling America’s democratic promise was the founding purpose of land-grant universities.  The defined urban-serving mission for higher education dates from the late 19th century, notably the founding of Johns Hopkins University, the first modern university, in 1876. Community colleges and regional colleges and universities were also founded for democratic purposes, embracing access and inclusion as core to their mission and goals.

Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a re-emergence of engaged scholarship, with leading academics and heads of colleges, universities and community colleges making the intellectual case. The argument is that higher educational institutions would better fulfill their core civic and academic functions, including advancing knowledge and learning, if they focused on improving conditions in their cities and local communities.   

It is more important than ever that higher educational institutions function as genuinely democratic, engaged civic institutions dedicated to advancing learning and knowledge to advance human welfare.  A radical democratic transformation of colleges and universities is crucial to the democratic transformation of America into a genuinely democratic society.

Higher educational institutions possess enormous resources (most significantly human resources), play a leading role in developing and transmitting new discoveries and educating societal leaders, and basically shape the schooling system.  As it currently operates, the American higher educational system does not contribute to the development of democratic communities and schools.

Among other deficiencies, American universities in particular significantly contribute to a schooling system that is elitist and hierarchical.  As John Dewey emphasized, participatory democratic schooling is mandatory for a participatory democratic society.  Simply put, unless the schooling system from pre-K through 20 is transformed into a participatory democratic schooling system, America will continue to fall far short of functioning as a decent, just, participatory democracy.  The transformation of higher education is crucial to the transformation of the entire schooling system and the education of creative, caring, contributing democratic citizens.

Ira Harkavy is the Director of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania.

Citizen Professional: the term and a story

By William J. Doherty

We need a new crop of citizen professionals coming out of our colleges and universities.  The term citizen professional emphasizes the role of professionals in rebuilding the civic life of communities in addition to their traditional role in providing specialized services to individuals.  It moves beyond the late 20th century notion of the professional as a detached expert who informs other citizens but is not informed by them, who critiques social systems but does act to change these systems, and who sees patients, clients and communities in terms of their needs and not their capacities for individual and collective action.

Citizen professionalism is mainly an identity: seeing oneself first as a citizen with special expertise working alongside other citizens with their own special expertise in order to solve community problems that require everyone’s effort.  This not just an idealistic self-image but comes from a grounded realization that the really big problems in health care, education, and social welfare—sometimes known as “wicked problems”– cannot be solved by professionals working alone, nor by government action alone.  We will not make headway against the tide unless we all row together.

Here’s a short video describing the transformation of a student’s ideas about her future professional work after taking a course in Citizen Professional Work with Families and Communities.

William J. Doherty, Ph.D. is a professor in the Department of Family Social Science and director of the Citizen Professional Center at the University of Minnesota.  He leads the Citizen Health Care and Families and Democracy Projects, which are developing the theory and practice of civic action by families and democratic public work by professionals.  He and his colleagues currently have implemented 15 grass roots organizing projects among parents and other citizens around cultural, health, and community issues of importance to families.  These projects range from the cultural discontents of middle class families (overscheduling, out-of-control birthday parties) to challenges of urban single fathers, from health care problems among American Indians to the enduring effects of war and trauma on an African immigrant community.  For descriptions and publications, see www.citizenprofessional.org.  Bill is also a practicing family therapist, does frequent media interviews to promote cultural change, and is past president of the National Council on Family Relations.