Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement in Higher Education

Policymakers and university leaders demand a greater emphasis on civic learning and democratic engagement in higher education. While students learn about American history and civics in the classroom, many don't learn how to apply these lessons in real-life situations, such as voter turnout, town hall meetings, and public service. Furthermore, many students do not know the key difference between debate and deliberation.
That report, "A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future," prepared by the National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement, is being released today and makes the case for an elevated level of civic knowledge and democratic engagement among college students. As part of this push to make democratic engagement a national goal, the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and U.S. Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter will join other Obama administration officials and higher education luminaries at the White House today to make the case that an engaged citizenry will bolster the country’s democracy and economy.

The report lays out what it calls a new vision for civic learning: familiarity with democratic principles and political structures, knowledge of political systems, cultures and religions in the United States and other parts of the world. "Knowledge is important, but it is equally important to work on public problems that help democracy,” said Carol Schneider, the AAC&U president, who was one of 11 members on the national task force that helped shaped the report. It calls on colleges and universities to build partnerships with nonprofits, governmental agencies, and business. "...civic learning needs to be an integral component of every level of education, from grammar school through graduate school, across all fields of study," the report concludes.

How do you feel about civic engagement in higher education?

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