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A Crucible Moment

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Following on the heels of  the release of our own study looking at civic education initiatives in k-12 charter schools, a new report by the National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement sounds the rallying cry for civic education at a college level. Entitled A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future, the report “urges every college and university to foster a civic ethos that governs campus life, make civic literacy a goal for every graduate, integrate civic inquiry within majors and general education, and advance civic action as lifelong practice.”

As we’ve noted before, the heavy emphasis placed on STEM subjects in an attempt to prepare students for the marketplace has two unintended consequences: 1) it can crowd out civic learning, and 2) because of this, students do not actually get the preparation they need to flourish in today’s changing marketplace–much less to be good citizens. A Crucible Moment makes this point well. Writing over at  the Washington Post‘s “College Inc. blog,” president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities and Task Force member Carol Geary Schneider explains:

Those preparing for careers in science, health, engineering, education, public service, business, accounting and the trades all need practical experience in examining the kind of public questions with which every field inevitably wrestles. Today’s students need—both for democracy and the economy—not just to analyze issues, but to work together with others from different backgrounds in finding achievable solutions to actively contested questions. Work in the field—in partnership with community organizations tackling important public questions—is the new frontier both for college majors and for democracy’s future.

As Schneider told the Chronicle,  “Employers say, ‘Send us people who are capable of solving difficult problems in teams with people different from themselves.’  You have a triple-win in sight by investing in the forms of democratic learning we’re talking about […] We’ll build capacity for democracy and the economy, and higher rates of college competition.”

A triple-win indeed. Read the whole report here.