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Civic Education: Is There Common Ground?

Wednesday, Mar 13, 2019 | 12:00pm

With the recent deterioration of our political institutions and the decay of our civic life, many observers have looked to the schools in search a remedy. While American schools can do little to change the behaviors of the political elite which have sowed factional animosity and done damage to our democracy, a vigorous education into democratic citizenship could cultivate a political culture with deep roots in democratic values and practices, thus enabling a powerful force for democratic change from below. With this idea in mind, a renewed, widespread interest in civic education has arisen.

But the road to a reinvigorated, robust civic education faces major challenges. Since the mission of civics is the preparation of American citizens, it cannot be separated from intrinsically political questions – about who is and can become a citizen, about what the rights and duties of citizenship entail, and about how citizens should understand and act on their relationship to each other and to their government. Civics also involves political issues of equity, since research has demonstrated that race and class limit the access of many students to the rich educational experiences that prepare them to become powerful citizens. In a time of intense political polarization, is it possible to find common ground on how to teach civics to all our students?

Our panelists – educators with long, rich and diverse experiences in the field of civics education – laid out their approach to finding a “common ground” in the teaching of civics education.

Panelists:

Leo Casey, Executive Director, Albert Shanker Institute

Peter Levine, Research Professor in Philosophy, Tisch College Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs, and Research Professor in the Tufts Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute at Tufts University

Jessica Marshall, co-author, “Let’s Go There: Making A Case for Race, Ethnicity and a Lived Civics Approach to Civic Education;" doctoral candidate, Northwestern University; former Director of Social Science and Civic Engagement for the Chicago Public Schools

Robert Pondiscio, Senior Fellow and Vice President for External Affairs, Thomas B. Fordham Institute

 Joe Rogers, Director of Public Engagement and Government Affairs, Center for Educational Equity, Teachers College, Columbia University. 

Moderator: Marla Ucelli-Kashyap, Assistant to the President for Educational Issues, American Federation of Teachers