Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Civic Education -- a Discussion at Harvard

How can schools and colleges help create a better citizenry? In 2011, this is a very touchy issue. Questions of civic responsibility are easily politicized. Listening to politicians of different parties interpret the Constitution, you might wonder whether they are reading the same text; no wonder educational institutions, so sensitive to inclusivity and avoiding politics, seem to prefer service programs to civic disputations. Voting rates are abysmally low, and educated people will tell you proudly of the weak excuses they have used to avoid jury duty. The great universities proclaim their new global identities so loudly that their sense of responsibility to the U.S. and its citizens can be hard to observe.

I started writing about these matters in Excellence Without a Soul, in my reflections on the difference between the post-World War II General Education curriculum at Harvard and its 21st century successor. This fall, I have related essays out in two books, Teaching America and What Is College For? (both the latter book and my essay in it are done jointly with Ellen Condliffe Lagemann). 

Thanks to the wonderful support of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, I have been able to pull together a wonderful group of panelists to discuss "The Fate of Civic Education in a Connected World" at the Harvard Law School on December 5, at 6:00 PM. Please click the link to look at the lineup--Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, Peter Levine, Elizabeth Lynn, Juan Carlos De Martin, myself, and Charles Nesson acting as provocateur (rather than "moderator"!). There is also an RSVP form on that page. Hope to see you there! I expect it will be an exciting discussion.

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