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Civic Provocations

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Earlier this year, the “Bringing Theory to Practice Project” published a monograph  that encourages colleges and universities to reexamine their core purposes and to “advance education as a public good that sustains a civic society.” The monograph, entitled Civic Provocations, is composed of informal essays designed to raise questions and get students and administrators on campus thinking about the civic mission of higher education. Edited by Donald W. Harward (Bringing Theory to Practice Project director), Civic Provocations includes essays by Carol Geary Schneider (AACU President), Corey Keyes (Emory University), Barry Checkoway (University of Michigan), and Peter Levine (CIRCLE), among others.

The first essay, by David Scobey (The New School), entitled “Why Now? Because This is a Copernican Moment,” explains the need for these conversations to happen on college campuses. Arguing that the traditional view of higher education (at least of the last fifty or so years) of full-time, on-campus students is quickly changing, Scobey urges that civic education and civic engagement practices on college campuses need to change, too:

We need to develop educational practices and civic projects that engage not only local, but also trans-local, global, and digital scales of community–that is, all the scales of community that are now the ordinary lives of our students. This does not mean abandoning the practices and responsibilities of local community collaboration. Indeed […] working-class, first-generation, and non-white students are bound to be more localistic in their educational choices, even as they are parts of global networks and diasporas. But we need to develop educational practices that draw on their everyday weaving of geographically bounded, geographically networked, and online identities.

The other essays in the monograph ask similar questions and come to many different conclusions, but it’s encouraging to see the conversation about civic education in higher ed continuing and being taken seriously. Read more from the Civic Provocations monograph here, and, in case you missed it in January, also check out the American Colleges and Universities’ (AACU)–the project’s partner organization–national call to action, “A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future.”

[Update: An earlier version of this post mistakenly stated that Civic Provocations was published by the American Colleges and Universities (AACU). As reflected in the corrected version, the monograph is exclusively a product of the Bringing Theory to Practice project. Also, please note that information on this year’s  “civic seminar” grants that are meant to help continue the conversations started by the monograph are available here. Proposals are due by June 15.]