Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A nation of spectators

Democracy Faces a 'Crucible Moment,' Says Report, but Colleges Can Help (Dan Berrett, Chronicle of Higher Education)

     American democracy will confront an increasingly bleak future unless colleges make civic learning a central part of students' education, says a report released Tuesday by the National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement.
     "This is a moment of serious reckoning for our democracy," said Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities and one of the members of the task force that produced the report, "A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy's Future." It was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education.
     The report coincides with a daylong event on Tuesday at the White House. It calls for colleges to renew their commitment to civic education at a time when higher education is talked about chiefly as a means of job training.
     Civic learning and democratic engagement should become explicit goals of college, and take more forms than civics courses, the authors say. For example, every discipline should teach relevant civic issues and debates.
     As envisioned in the report, each college would demonstrate as part of its "defining character" a spirit of public-mindedness, openness, and civility. Colleges would cut money from areas that are less critical and apply it to these efforts instead. They would also train students to be civically literate and encourage them to continue working for the public good after graduating.
. . .
     Worries about America's civic health have been widely noted for decades. A national commission on civic renewal in 1998 fretted about the citizenry being "in danger of becoming a nation of spectators." In 2010, just one in four high-school seniors scored proficient or better on national civics exams, and college seniors do not fare much better on other measures, the report says.
. . .
     The report … asks higher-education leaders, faculty, and staff to take on another duty when its plate is growing increasingly full. In recent years, colleges have been called on to make higher education more accessible to more students, constrain tuition costs, produce more graduates, train them for jobs, stimulate local economies, and figure out how to assess how much students are learning….

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. The recommendations of THIS federal task force on civics and democracy seem very much at odds with those Fordist recommendations pushed through the California legislature at the moment by that other task force on "student success."

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