Civic Learning and Engagement

Dear Colleagues!

A huge thanks to the many in the education community and beyond who have provided thoughtful and valuable feedback on our Civic Learning and Engagement (CLE) Blog!  The responses were so rich we have decided to repost the blog to allow more time for responses.

This blog will be open to comments through Friday, March 15th, 2013.  Again, your input is incredibly valuable to the future development of ED’s CLE Initiative; this initiative is being designed with you in mind so thank you in advance for your time and input!

BACKGROUND:

At a White House event in January of 2013, the Obama Administration released its Road Map for CLE, “Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy”. This Road Map, developed by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), is a “Call to Action” that outlines nine steps ED is taking as it explores ways it can better work with students, families, communities and leaders in education, business, labor, and philanthropy and government agencies, to reinvigorate civic learning and engagement in our educational system from grades pre-school through post-graduate levels, nationwide. We envision a broad commitment from “cradle to career” that emphasizes the urgent need to provide a high quality education for students that prepares them to grow into informed, engaged and responsible members of our global society, while at the same time providing opportunities for discover how they can contribute to a better world.   You are invited to watch the release event at the WH and read ED’s Road Map to learn more.

TELL US YOUR THOUGHTS ON ED’S PATH TOWARDS INCREASING CIVIC LEARNING & ENGAGEMENT!

Since the release of the Road Map, ED strives to achieve its nine objectives.  As part of this process, ED seeks the public’s input.  We encourage educators, practitioners, students, researchers, and any other interested parties to submit thoughtful opinions, ideas, suggestions and comments pertaining to the outline below:

A.      How ED Defines “Civic Learning and Engagement Programs”

Non-partisan programs, which build civic knowledge and skills by providing educational and service opportunities that help students become informed and engaged members of our society.  ED believes civic learning and engagement programs can be facilitated through a two pronged approach:

  1. Development, through the study of American History, Civics and Government, of students’ foundational civic knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors.
  2. Participation in engaging and interactive activities (e.g., service-learning, community-based projects, simulations, and advocacy) that provide students the opportunity to connect their learning to the needs of their community through action and reflection, thus broadening their understanding for how they can apply their new civic knowledge to create systemic change that will improve positive and productive societal outcomes. Activities should be selected and organized with input from faculty, students and the beneficiaries of the activity, and can be developed in partnership with educational institutions, faith and/or community-based organizations, government, philanthropies, businesses, and other stakeholders.

B.      How ED will Support Civic Learning

Of the nine objectives ED is implementing to support civic learning and engagement activities, we specifically request feedback on how to best:

  1. Convene and catalyze the education community to increase and enhance high-quality civic learning and engagement opportunities.
  2. Identify civic learning and engagement indicators to measure student outcomes and encouraging further research to learn more about appropriate and effective program design.
  3. Leverage federal investments and public-private partnerships to support civic learning and engagement activities where permitted and feasible.
  4. Highlight and promote civic learning and engagement opportunities for students, families and other stakeholders as collaborators and problem-solvers in education.

Read More on CLE at ED:
– Secretary Duncan’s remarks at “For Democracies Future” WH convening mentioned above and at the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues on the Power of Debate.

Please direct all submissions to civiclearning@ed.gov or post them on directly on this blog.

This is a moderated site. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. We intend to post all responsive submissions on a timely basis. We reserve the right not to post comments that are unrelated to this request, are inconsistent with ED’s Web site policies, are advertisements or endorsements, or are otherwise inappropriate. To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. For more information, please be sure to read the “comments policy” tab at the top of the Web page.

The fine print: Please understand that posts must be related to Civic Learning Initiative, and should be as specific as possible, and, as appropriate, supported by data and relevant research. Posts must be limited to 1,000 words. All opinions, ideas, suggestions and comments are considered informal input. If you include a link to additional information in your post, we urge you to ensure that the linked-to information is accessible to all individuals, including individuals with disabilities. Additionally, please do not include links to advertisements or endorsements; we will delete all such links before your comment is posted.

Again, thank you for your interest in this opportunity to support civic learning. We look forward to hearing from you.

51 Comments

  1. NASPA -Student Affairs Administrators In Higher Education Is the leading association for the advancement of the student affairs profession, dedicated to the promotion of student learning and student success in postsecondary education. Working with a full range of professionals who provide programs, experiences, and services that facilitate learning and development for a diverse student population, NASPA membership totals nearly 14,000 members in all 50 states, 29 countries, and 8 U.S. Territories.

    Inherent in the mission and work of student affairs is the promotion of values related to the civic development of students. Student affairs practitioners are leaders on their campuses, directing co-curriculum experiences including student leadership programming, residence halls, multicultural life and diversity programming, athletics, and fraternities and sorority life. These many points of interaction facilitate the promotion of CLDE through numerous outlets. As a result of student affairs practice and programming, students learn the knowledge, skills, and abilities associated with citizenship including leadership, the ability to work with others, multicultural competency, and community involvement.

    NASPA has a deep commitment to promoting civic learning and democratic engagement. For example, in addition to the association’s contributions to the development and dissemination of A Crucible Moment, NASPA directs the Lead Initiative on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (Lead Initiative), a network of 50 colleges and universities committed to co‐curricular efforts to facilitate students’ civic learning and democratic engagement. Lead Initiative institutions have committed to a series of strategies to work in partnership with on and off campus constituents to influence students’ ongoing commitment to their civic development, including:

    • Building Clear and tangible civic learning and democratic engagement activities into student affairs division strategic goals and learning outcomes.

    • Collecting and reporting data on the efficacy of campus efforts using tools that measure gains in civic learning and democratic engagement.

    • Creating strategies in collaboration with students that increase civic learning and help solve community problems through collective action.

    In addition to the Lead Initiative, NASPA is also offering a new professional development opportunity, a CLDE-specific conference to be held June 2013. The conference will feature the civic and democratic work championed by the field of student affairs, elevate successful engagement strategies being employed in the co–‐curriculum, and help to tie the outcomes of CLDE work to the larger purpose of higher education. Designed for those new to civic engagement roles as well as seasoned practitioners, the CLDE conference offers a variety of dynamic learning opportunities to enhance civic engagement work by student affairs practitioners. Participants will acquire knowledge, build skills, utilize best practices and current research to develop their professional competencies and gain a more comprehensive understanding of civic learning and democratic engagement.

    NASPA’s dedication to, and future plans for, CLDE programming indicate the association’s leadership, expertise, and commitment to CLDE, and with that in mind, NASPA offers the following suggestions for The U.S. Department of Education’s Road Map for Civic Learning, “Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy.”

    1. Recognize Student Affairs practitioners in the definition of civic learning and engagement.

    The current listing of interactive activities (service–‐learning, community service, leadership programming) and definitions lacks the presence of student affairs practitioners and their important role and reach in promoting the civic development of college students. The ED should recognize the work of student affairs professionals and the explicit role of the co–‐curriculum in promoting and developing citizenship. The ED should work with NASPA to include the field of student affairs in their work around CLDE and expand their conception of CLDE to capture co–‐curricular programs and experiences.

    2. Include Student Affairs practitioners in convenings of the education community.

    NASPA members and affiliates can surely add to the conversation around civic learning and civic education of college students. Additionally, as a member organization, our connection to our constituents can expedite and ensure timely communication between current CLDE initiatives on campuses and national efforts like the ED’s roadmap.

    3. Partner with NASPA to learn about effective program design to promote student learning.

    The Lead Initiative partner institutions are currently collecting, analyzing, and working to understand how campus civic engagement programming contributes to the civic development of college students and the fulfillment of institutional mission. The ED can partner with NASPA as we work to collect, disseminate, and highlight the findings of these campuses. Doing so would leverage the investments ED is making in CLDE, and speed the dissemination of scalable institutional practices that have proven successful at engaging students in their civic development.

    In sum, ED could add to their leadership in the CLDE Space by including student affairs practitioners in their language, programming, and convenings. The important, diverse, and far-reaching work of student affairs professionals in the co–‐curriculum is another tool to promote civic development for youth. The ED can affirm and support this role with increased recognition and support for this work.

    We look forward to future opportunities to collaborate as we all strive to promote the civic development of students to ensure an educated and democratically engaged citizenry.

  2. Hey ya’all,

    I’m a filmaker and city planner deeply interested in civic engagement and community collaboration. Of course this means it should also be taught in the curriculum — film as a tool for social documentation and civic communication; urban planning or at least local/state legislation/policy that directly effects land use and development (such as Prop 13 in CA). What about media as being part of ‘well-rounded’?

    There is little education or discussion on the very environment most youth live in and go to school. If you want real civic engagement, youth have to have real civic discoveries. Why not start with the community?

  3. This is a bullet pointed synopsis of ideas brainstormed that may help promote the aims of the Civic Engagement Road Map:

    • IU East is currently requiring freshman seminar students to read : Listening is Act of Love . As a common reading, the story of StoryCorps from Dave Isay is very insightful and a good history tool. The book and Story Corps interviews allow every day Americans to share their unique American story. I encourage participation in Story Corps as I believe the active collection of stories and oral history will give students on the college campus more appreciation for their country.

    • Encourage American Government or Intro to American Politics be a required staple of a college students general education.

    • Encourage College /big business collaboration through SIFE (Students for Independent and Free Enterprise). SIFE is very active on the IU East campus. The interaction students have with business leaders as they craft business plans and learn the nature of a democratic capitalist society is invaluable.

    • Create a National Survey of Student Engagement like Assessment to measure a student’s civics knowledge base. This would be similar to assessments completed at the secondary level.. Using the data to create benchmarks of what a college student should know in the economics, history, government arenas would be helpful to the goals for the road map.

    • At the University Of Indianapolis, students earning degrees there can also earn a service learning diploma. Recommending service learning is not enough to foster civic engagement in higher education. Requiring service learning ensures civics lessons taught in the classroom are applied to the real world.

  4. I agree with some of the previous comments; the best education is well-rounded, and not just in an academic sense of how much a student learns from sitting in a classroom. More civic engagement should be encouraged, maybe even required. For example, at my university, there is a general education course about American history and government and part of the course is a 10-hour service project over the course of a semester. As a result of working with other community members via local organizations, the student is better able to see how his/her role as a citizen on a local community level while also learning about the structure of local, state, and national governments and organizations. Rather than what he/she learns being applicable in an abstract, theoretical way, the learning becomes personal and tangible, making the learning experience much more memorable and long-lasting.

  5. On January 10th, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that policy will include preparing young people for “citizenship” as well as “college” and “career.” Adding a third “C,” for “citizenship,” has been a long-time goal of many higher education groups.

    A next step is to integrate the “three C’s,” understanding that citizenship can be expressed through work with public purposes and collaborative qualities – as a citizen teacher, citizen business owner, citizen hair dresser, citizen engineer, citizen computer operator and many other positions.

    Education needs to prepare students through college for citizen careers, work that “pays and matters,” in the phrase of the civic engagement leader Julie Ellison.
    For much of American history, democracy and citizenship were understood in these ways. When Alexis de Tocqueville, the French observer who toured the nation in the 1830s, wrote his classic study, Democracy in America he meant democracy as a society, not simply a system of government. Citizens were seen as foundational agents of democracy, not simply voters or volunteers.

    Tocqueville was amazed that Americans citizens engaged in self-directed action to accomplish multiple tasks undertaken by governments in Europe. A strong sense of agency also animated democratic movements in America. As the sociologist Robert Bellah has observed, “political parties [in America] often come in on the coattails of successful popular movements rather than leading them.”

    Such a democracy involved the down to earth public work of solving problems and building communities. Kettering Foundation president David Mathews conveys this citizenship in his book, Reclaiming Public Education by Reclaiming Our Democracy:
    Nineteenth-century self-rule grew out of barn raisings and town meetings; it was a sweaty, hands-on, problem-solving politics. The democracy of self-rule was rooted in collective decision making and acting— especially acting. Settlers on the frontier had to be producers, not just consumers. They had to join forces to build forts, roads, and libraries. They formed associations to combat alcoholism and care for the poor as well as to elect representatives. They also established the first public schools. Their efforts were examples of “public work,” meaning work done by not just for the public.

    In the early decades of the 20th century, such views of democracy as a society and citizenship as centered in people’s work informed land grant colleges, with their curriculum combining “practical studies” and “liberal arts.” Graduates saw themselves as working as citizens through their jobs not mainly off-hours.
    As John Hannah, President of Michigan State put it in 1944 in an address to the Association of Land Grant Colleges and Universities, “Our colleges should not be content with only the training of outstanding agriculturalists, or engineers, or home economists, or teachers, or scientists, or lawyers, or doctors, or veterinarians…the first and never forgotten objective must be that every human product of our educational system must be given the training that will enable him to be an effective citizen….”

    But by the 1950s, the tie between citizenship and work had largely disappeared. The National Conference on Citizenship, which assesses the civic health of communities, includes no indicators connected to work or the workplace. The assumption is that citizenship is off-hours service or voluntary activity. Today, most colleges and universities distinguish between professional and workforce preparation, on the one hand, and liberal arts, sciences and civic learning, on the other.
    Yet in a time when “jobs” are widely discussed, work-related ideas like “citizen professionalism” are beginning to appear again. David Scobey, dean of the New School of Public Engagement, has recently called for a new emphasis on work and its civic impacts throughout higher education:

    We need to think about work as a key arena of reflective preparation, doing for work what we did for service learning. We should enable all students to reflect on their work experience and be intentional about it. We need a totally new mode of where work fits into students’ growth, bringing together civic learning, work, and student courses of study.

    One place to begin is discussions with faculty and staff about how they understand their own work and their broader public contributions through teaching and research, beyond the specific research projects they conduct in their disciplines or the particular classes they teach.

    It is a big task. Putting work back at the center of citizenship and civic learning will take a movement throughout all of higher education.

    It can also move citizenship from a poor cousin to the center of the family.

  6. Service learning is valuable—it improves civic understanding and civility in schools. A nonprofit group called generationOn develops service learning lesson plans, and is working on an evaluation of service learning programs.

  7. Work to raise funds for civic engagement programs from universities and outside donors. Build partnerships between community colleges and universities.

  8. Since 1995, Kapi’olani CC in Honolulu has sustained a nationally recognized service-learning and civic engagement program, which I oversee. More than 10,000 students have completed service-learning assignments since 1995. I was involved in the dialog that resulted in AAC&U’s “Crucible Moment” publication and have worked with AAC&U since 2002 and their publication “Greater Expectations.”were also convincing college decision-makers to invest in service-learning with ongoing and systematic assessment and evaluation. Internal and external fund leveraging has enabled the program to thrive. 7. Civic learning for a well-rounded K-12 curriculum: In the late 1990s we received a subgrant from the Community College National Center for Community Engagement called “2+4=Service on Common Ground.” These funds opened our eyes to the potential of service-learning “transfer pathways” from community colleges to universities in the same geographic “service area.” Community college and university faculty and students serve together on issues such as homelessness, early literacy, and creating K-16 STM pipelines (with HUD and NSF funding). We have refined our service-learning to work across “issue pathways” comprised of multiple semesters of service-learning aligned with general education learning outcomes assessment. Service-Learning in general ed can then prepare students for service-learning in majors and interdisciplinary study. So two suggestions: 1) more emphasis on leveraging institutional and external funding; 2) more emphasis on service-learning on common ground partnerships between community colleges and universities (building on the K-12 curriculum).

  9. A program which practices in civic learning and democratic engagement is the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation. They leverage federal investments and public-private partnerships, encourage public service careers among college students and graduates, and support civic learning for a well-rounded K–12 curriculum.

  10. From “Nice” to “Necessary:” the case for Service, Service Learning and Philanthropy Education as the foundations for successful civic education. As an every-single-day practitioner of connecting young people to their communities, and themselves through service, I applaud the ED’s Road Map for Civic Learning. And it is my greatest hope that my colleagues in the service learning and philanthropy education community will be able to play an integral part in this national effort. Whether we as a field failed to make the case for service learning or not, it is clear that in recent years the value of service as a core component in education has been called to question. And yet consider the following:
    •Service learning provides an unparalleled opportunity to employ differentiated teaching methods to reach your students. Research suggests the population of learners in general and male learners in particular classified as “kinesthetic learners” is extremely large. Most, if not all, service-learning has a component that necessitates students get up and move their bodies through space; therefore the service actually becomes the vehicle for advancing knowledge, skills and abilities.
    •GenerationOn Schools- the service learning and philanthropy education platform of generationOn, the youth division of Points of Light- has at the ready a repository of over 1,600 service learning and philanthropy education lesson plans that are tied to the education standards of all 50 states and aligned with the US Common Core standards. This means that a teacher in Florida who must get students ready for the FCAT can do so using a service learning curriculum. By intentionally leading with academic preparedness and aligning with testing standards, service learning is transformed from potentially being perceived as an added burden to being recognized as a sort of academic “one stop shopping.” To reiterate- employing the generationOn Schools model affords educators with the tools and resources to meet academic standards, to be aligned with state and national curricula, and to do so through the prism of service learning and community engagement which intrinsically provide differentiated learning opportunities for non-traditional learners. While it is true that service learning can be positioned to enhance and facilitate the overall academic environment, it is equally true that it is a powerful tool for civic engagement and education. The simple truth is service positions young people as problem solvers as opposed to problems that need to be solved. As the activator of service and engagement- and not merely the recipient- students must drive the conversation, the plan and the execution of each opportunity. With adult scaffolding to reflect and evaluate the outcomes, young people are launched on a path that is a hallmark of engaged citizenry- it is open-ended, tends to increase in complexity as understanding deepens and usually entails coalition building, consensus and compromise. And, perhaps most compelling of all the emergence of a higher level of civility need not wait until adulthood. There is overwhelming anecdotal evidence that engaging students in service learning not only increases students’ civic comprehension, it also increases civility in schools. More focus must be given to our ability to rigorously measure the service learning offerings and academic outcomes associated with this platform. To that end, generationOn has commissioned an evaluation of our Indiana statewide initiative in conjunction with IUPUI. We look forward to sharing our findings with ED and other interested parties. In conclusion, humans are hard-wired to help, and as the saying goes… “kids are people too.” By tapping into this intrinsic human nature, by providing academically rigorous opportunities to learn, to share, to help and to grow, and by acknowledging the powerful contributions young people can make in their communities; service learning and philanthropy education can lead the way in civic education and provide the necessary foundation for tomorrow’s civic leaders.

  11. The support of the Department of Education is essential for the needed work in civic learning to take root across higher education. I direct one of the nation’s leading service learning programs at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB). Since it opened in 2005, all CSUMB undergraduate students have had to complete two “service learning courses” that address issues of social responsibility and cultivate students’ commitment to civic engagement and service. During the first 10 years of our university’s existence, we conducted pre- and post- assessment of students in the service learning courses. Results showed that students: 1) had a more positive attitude toward service and civic responsibility; 2) were more comfortable participating in the community; and 3) were more confident in their ability to “make a difference.”

    Over the past 17 years, our work has been supported by grants from the Corporation for National and Community Service, by the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of University Partnerships, and by the Department of Agriculture. Ironically, ALL THREE OF THE PROGRAMS THAT HAVE SUPPORTED OUR WORK HAVE BEEN “ZEROED-OUT.” I find this quite disturbing, given the new focus on civic learning.

    Here are some recommendations:

    1. Make funding available to support programs that integrate concrete civic learning outcomes into the core of the majors. This is where true curricular transformation needs to occur in order for civic learning to become embraced by higher education.

    2. Before trying to measure student outcomes, measure the presence or absence of civic learning/literacy outcomes in degree programs. We should not expect to see student change when curricula have not changed. We need to prioritize the development of civic learning outcomes in the majors and degree programs.

    3. Offer national Civic Merit Scholars recognition to students who prepare a portfolio of their civic learning/literacy. Make this matter! Have it be grounded in the knowledge and skills of the disciplines and academic programs. Have financial incentives attached. For example, partial forgiveness of student loans.

    4. Work with the Professional Associations to have them emphasize civic learning and literacy as a fundamental component of accreditation for universities.

    5. Substantially increase Federal Community Service Work Study opportunities that are linked to the majors and degree programs. Have these provide job/internship opportunities organized with local employers. Federal Work Study should again emphasize community work, and that community work should be linked to the core knowledge, skills and attitudes that are being developed by the majors and degree programs.

    If my post seems to be redundant, and seems to focus largely on the role of the departments and disciplines, that is a correct observation. Civic learning has grown in higher education, but, in the margins. As such, it is still seen as a marginal practice, of less merit that the rigorous and important learning that goes on in the majors and degree programs. Until this changes, civic learning will remain a dry, irrelevant topic: a disconnected topic learned in some required civics course. We need to make this meaningful and connected to the core mission of higher education.

    Thanks.

  12. Is it possible that “non-partisan programs” is non-starter for developing serious civic engagement? It is one thing to ask students to try to understand all perspectives on various sides of political issues. It is something less to have them divest themselves of their own stances so as to be non-partisan. Putting one’s political views aside is akin to approaching the 1950s-60s civil rights era, while ignoring matters of race and justice. A sure way to have students adopt “bookish”
    knowledge but not to become engaged, is to start them off with denial that politics is sided and having them put their own views on hold. We are placing quite a burden on students and missing a learning opportunity by asking them to be non-partisan at school, but allowing them to be partsian at the family dinner table, in their peer group discussions, at membership clubs, and at the various community-based places where they do service for defined purposes. If engagement is the desired outcome, them let students engage through real interaction with one another and their multisided communities. The empirical literature I know says that adults who are politically engaged got their start earlier by questioning, getting angry, wanting to change, or becoming involved in issues they cared about.

  13. I believe that our public higher education is the perfect venue for furthering important discussion and planning for civic learning. The four highly implementable steps that seemed to stand out in “A Roadmap and Call to Action Report” should be part of all grant award acceptance objectives. They were:
    1. Convene and catalyze schools and postsecondary institution to increase and enhance high-quality civic learning and engagement. This can be done through the core courses (like first-year seminars), which every college and university offers as orientation for all programs and includes those seeking certifications in non-academic fields.
    5. Encourage community-based work-study placements. This is the best suggestion that needs to start with a top-down approach. In other words, community leaders—working with colleges and universities—need to encourage hiring and placement of students for work study jobs through the community service areas (i.e. health dept., schools, etc.) for increased interest in civic understanding.
    6. Encourage public service careers among college students and graduates. Careers like teaching, nursing, etc. need to be in the forefront of careers to be in that are well-paid and important for a community. I think current societal views of these careers are that they are not as well compensated or highly regarded as business careers.
    8. Engage historically Black Colleges and University and other Minority-Serving Institutions—including Hispanic Serving Institutions, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions and Tribal Colleges and Universities—in a national dialogue to identify best practices. Every college and university that is any of the aforementioned institutions should have suggestions on how to better serve their populations.
    There is no “one-size-fits-all” method of helping every student. Each grant written to assist their demographics should be considered on the merits of their particular needs and data and regarded for how they implement best practices for their populations.

  14. Since my last “Civics” class was in high school, I began to research just what a civics type course is and what it should be. As the mandates have stated, this is a K-12 initiative, however most of the comments I have seen posted relate to high school and beyond. That is a long time to wait for students to become “good students of character”. Because we do not expect our younger students to participate in citizenship, with the exception of saying the pledge, how can we expect them to take on the role of citizen later? As a teacher, we have our hands tied teaching the “important” subjects- reading, math and science. However, can we make more of an effort to tie civics lessons into the total curriculum? What about outside the curriculum? One good way suggested was service type projects. It seems our low-income school is always involved in collecting money for this or that, or clothes and canned goods or other things for people less fortunate. This is one way students are made aware of the wider community they live in. Another important focus in schools today is bullying- but if we had more respect for the rights of others, would it be such a problem? What happened to student courts? We have a 6th grade Peer Mediation group where problems are resolved. I think it would be great if the “trials” were broadcast for all our students to see. I see a big problem with individual responsibility. We are not allowed to make students “responsible” for doing their homework. If they don’t do their homework, they are given several chances to make it up. Points may be taken off for late work, but we have had parents question this policy. If we are too “harsh” on students and ask for too much or too difficult (challenging) homework, parents make us change our ways. Sometimes responsibility is as simple as getting a student to bring a pencil to class. They expect the teachers to hand out supplies and are angry when we don’t. The students want to put the responsibility on us. Responsibility and citizenship begin in the elementary grades. It should be built on at each grade level by the time they get to high school. We can do a better job of training the students, but we have to re-train parents and teachers as well. I think many people would be willing to try to change, and ask for more civics in school. The consequence is if we don’t, we will have a society who does not care.

  15. Students at Florida Gulf Coast University are required to participate in civic learning as part of their graduation requirement. The University utlizies under #3 “Identifying promising practices in civic learning and democratic engagement—and encourage further research to learn and what works. Under the Nine Steps to Enhancing the DOE’s Commitment to Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy.

  16. I believe that our public higher education is the perfect venue for furthering important discussion and planning for civic learning. The four highly implementable steps that seemed to stand out in A Roadmap and Call to Action Report should be part of all grant award acceptance objectives. They were:

    1. Convene and catalyze schools and postsecondary institution to increase and enhance high-quality civic learning and engagement.
    a. This can be done through the core courses (like first year seminar) which every college and university offers as orientation for all programs and includes those seeking certifications in non-academic fields.

    5. Encourage community-based work-study placements
    a. This is the best suggestion that needs to start with a top-down approach. In other words, community leaders—working with colleges and universities—need to encourage hiring and placement of students for work study jobs through the community service areas (i.e. health dept., schools, etc.) for increased interest in civic understanding.

    6. Encourage public service careers among college students and graduates.
    a. Careers like teaching, nursing, etc. need to be in the forefront of careers to be in that are well-paid and important for a community. I think current societal views of these careers are that they are not as well compensated or highly regarded as business careers.

    8. Engage historically Black Colleges and University and other Minority-Serving Institutions—including Hispanic Serving Institutions, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions and Tribal Colleges and Universities—in a national dialogue to identify best practices.
    a. Every college and university that is any of the aforementioned institutions should have suggestions on how to better serve their populations. There is no “one-size-fits-all” method of helping every student. Each grant written to assist their demographics should be considered on the merits of their particular needs and data and regarded for how they implement best practices for their populations.

    Thank you for allowing this type of dialog on this very important issue.

  17. Collegues,

    Since my last “Civics” class was in high school, I began to research just what a civics type course is and what it should be. As the mandates have stated, this is a K-12 initiative, however most of the comments I have seen posted relate to high school and beyond. That is a long time to wait for students to become “good students of character”. Because we do not expect our younger students to participate in citizenship, with the exception of saying the pledge, how can we expect them to take on the role of citizen later?

    As a teacher, we have our hands tied teaching the “important” subjects- reading, math and science. However, can we make more of an effort to tie civics lessons into the total curriculum? What about outside the curriculum? One good way suggested was service type projects. It seems our low-income school is always involved in collecting money for this or that, or clothes and canned goods or other things for people less fortunate. This is one way students are made aware of the wider community they live in.

    Another important focus in schools today is bullying- but if we had more respect for the rights of others, would it be such a problem? What happened to student courts? We have a 6th grade Peer Mediation group where problems are resolved. I think it would be great if the “trials” were broadcast for all our students to see.

    I see a big problem with individual responsibility. We are not allowed to make students “responsible” for doing their homework. If they don’t do their homework, they are given several chances to make it up. Points may be taken off for late work, but we have had parents question this policy. If we are too “harsh” on students and ask for too much or too difficult (challenging) homework, parents make us change our ways. Sometimes responsibility is as simple as getting a student to bring a pencil to class. They expect the teachers to hand out supplies and are angry when we don’t. The students want to put the responsibility on us.

    Responsibility and citizenship begin in the elementary grades. It should be built on at each grade level by the time they get to high school. We can do a better job of training the students, but we have to re-train parents and teachers as well. I think many people would be willing to try to change, and ask for more civics in school. The consequence is if we don’t, we will have a society who does not care.

  18. We are pleased to have the opportunity to comment on the U.S. Department of Education’s Road Map for civic learning, “Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy.” ASCD applauds the department’s call to action to reinvigorate civic learning and engagement for students; families; communities; and leaders in education, business, labor, philanthropy, and government. A comprehensive approach to learning recognizes that successful young people are intellectually active, emotionally and physically healthy, motivated, civically inspired, and ready for the world beyond their own borders.

    Launched in 2007, ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative is an effort to change the conversation about education from a focus on narrowly defined academic achievement to one that promotes the long-term success of each child. Civic learning is a crucial component of a whole child approach to education and is particularly important in ensuring that students gain an understanding of their opportunities in and obligations to their school, their community, and the nation. Although the mantle of citizenship may be acquired by birth or naturalization, becoming an active U.S. citizen must be learned. Our schools are uniquely equipped to provide this learning as well as the opportunities for practicing civic discourse and engagement in a safe and supportive environment.

    Since the founding of the U.S. public school system, students have been taught about the ideals that set our country apart and upon which it is built. Implementation of policies such as the No Child Left Behind Act have forced schools to devote more time to math and language arts instruction and assessment, which means diminished time spent on subjects such as civics. The result is that too many students graduate ignorant of our governmental structure, its historical significance, and their role in ensuring a workable republic. We look forward to working with the Department of Education to reverse this trend.

    There are numerous benefits of school-based civic learning to individuals, schools, and society, including

    • Giving students a voice, particularly those in disadvantaged populations, because they will have greater understanding of the importance of being informed and participating in civic discourse;
    • Instilling 21st century competencies, including communication, collaboration, and appreciation of diversity in opinions;
    • Improving school climate through engagement, thereby reducing school dropout rates;
    • Understanding the need for and increasing participation in community service; and
    •Increasing the accountability of elected officials, because an informed citizenry will and should question and check public decisions.

    According to the Civic Mission of Schools’ Guardian of Democracy Report (PDF), “Students who receive effective civic learning are:

    • More likely to vote and discuss politics at home
    • Four times more likely to volunteer and work on community issues
    • More confident in their ability to speak publicly and communicate with their elected representatives.” (p.6)

    The Department of Education asks for feedback on four of its nine objectives to support civic learning. ASCD offers feedback on three of these objectives:

    1. How to best convene and catalyze the education community to increase and enhance high-quality civic learning and engagement opportunities. ASCD proposes the following:

    a. Prioritizing civic learning in federal policy to encourage states, districts, and schools to
    i. Provide classroom instruction in history, government, economics, law, and democracy;
    ii. Encourage discussion of current events and controversial issues;
    iii. Ensure that students have the opportunity to participate in service-learning programs;
    iv. Offer outside-the-classroom opportunities for civic engagement;
    v. Encourage students’ participation in school governance; and
    vi. Provide opportunities for students to participate in simulations of the democratic process

    b. Ensuring civic learning is recognized as a core academic subject within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

    c. Increasing opportunities for ongoing teacher professional development in civics.

    d. Encouraging states to adopt high standards in civic learning, with student assessments based on these standards that include portfolios and group projects.

    e. Supporting civic learning through federal competitive grant opportunities to fund innovation; research; and dissemination of model programs and best practices, especially for low-income schools and disadvantaged students.

    f. Creating a school award program that best models civic learning achievement by students and schools.

    g. Requiring more frequent administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress in civics and history.

    h. Encouraging civic learning in colleges and universities.

    2. How to best identify civic learning and engagement indicators to measure student outcomes and encourage further research to learn more about appropriate and effective program design. ASCD proposes aligning student outcomes with the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies, as well as the National Standards for Civics and Government. These standards documents provide schools with a solid framework for instruction, assessment, and teacher professional development, which will help inform research on effective programming.

    3. How to best highlight and promote civic learning and engagement opportunities for students, families, and other stakeholders as collaborators and problem solvers in education. ASCD proposes the following:

    a. Requiring schools, districts, and communities to measure and report student and family engagement activities and outcomes (e.g., participation in after-school programming, community-based learning opportunities, and extracurricular activities; volunteer rates; parent involvement data).

    b. Encouraging schools and districts to establish course-credit systems that award students’ credit for participating in service learning, internships, and apprenticeships.

    c. Recognizing and rewarding schools and communities that offer students rich and relevant real-world learning experiences.

    ASCD appreciates the opportunity to respond to the Department of Education’s call to action to reinvigorate civic learning and engagement and stands ready to partner with you to further this important work. We look forward to working with you and offer the expertise of our membership and the resources of our association toward that goal.

  19. Educators in New York City are looking forward to proceeding with the Civic Learning initiative described in your announcement.

    I have been a Project Director of Teaching American History grants for the past several years and with my peers have experienced first hand the positive changes that have taken place in teaching our country’s history to the over 1 million students in the New York City Department of Education.

    It is from that perspective that I make the following suggestions regarding the Civic Learning program.

    First, if the program includes professional development for K-12 teachers, the teacher/participant pool should be open to all teachers interested in improving student civic involvement, rather than limiting participation to Social Studies teachers. Civics is for all citizens and all teachers should be allowed to learn how to infuse Civics into their teaching.

    Second, the K-12 component would benefit from partnerships with organizations such as those listed in “Road Map Call To Action,” that provide authentic opportunities for students to actively engage in civic issues. If the grant opportunity includes requests for proposals that present new program models in such partnerships, an opportunity would be created to develop new, possibly exemplary, student civic engagement programs.

    Third, professional development and student participation in the social networking arena that relates to civic participation would improve the sustainability of civic action into the future.

    These suggestions are within the domain of realistic accomplishment, I believe, and include measurable goals.

    Thank you very much for the opportunity to express my ideas.

  20. University of Maryland
    Discussion on Civic Engagement

    The University of Maryland convened a discussion group of faculty and staff to provide thoughtful opinions about the action items represented in the document, “ A Road Map and Call to Action: Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy.” In response to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s request for feedback find below a recommended definition and learning outcomes for civic engagement and reflections on the nine action items:

    Discussion Group: Craig E. Slack, Sue Briggs, James V. Riker , Nina P. Harris, Gloria Aparicio Blackwell, Barbara G. Jacoby, Dave Dessauer, Courtney Holder , Deborah Slosberg, Ali Barlow

    Recommended Civic Engagement Definition and Learning Outcomes:

    Definition

    Civic engagement is “acting upon a heightened sense of responsibility to one’s communities. This includes a wide range of activities, including developing civic sensitivity, participation in building civil society, and benefiting the common good. Civic engagement encompasses the notions of global citizenship and interdependence. Through civic engagement, individuals—as citizens of their communities, their nations, and the world—are empowered as agents of positive social change for a more democratic world.”

    Civic engagement involves one or more of the following:

    1. Learning from others, self, and environment to develop informed perspectives on social issues;
    2. Recognizing and appreciating human diversity and commonality;
    3. Behaving, and working through controversy, with civility;
    4. Taking an active role in the political process;
    5. Participating actively in public life, public problem solving, and community service;
    6. Assuming leadership and membership roles in organizations;
    7. Developing empathy, ethics, values, and sense of social responsibility;
    8. Promoting social justice locally and globally.

    –B. Jacoby & Associates, Civic Engagement in Higher Education, Jossey-Bass, 2009. Based on the definition framed by the Coalition for Civic Engagement and Leadership

    Civic Learning Outcomes

    Although not widely used today, the UMD Coalition for Civic Engagement and Leadership developed a comprehensive set of learning outcomes for civic engagement and leadership in 2005. There are 5 broad outcome themes, each accompanied by several specific outcomes that can be used in a wide range of initiatives, including courses, service-learning, internships, student employment, and study abroad.

    Students prepared for civic engagement and leadership can:

    9. Contribute to their communities in ways that are congruent with their values.
    10. Apply their leadership with or without a formal position
    11. Demonstrate knowledge, awareness, and understanding necessary to contribute to a culturally diverse world
    12. Apply academic and disciplinary knowledge and personal experiences to addressing societal problems
    13. Identify core personal values and base their actions on those values.

    Recommended Implementation Strategies:

    • The Department of Education should continue advocating for full funding of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama but not funded.

    • The Department of Education should provide guidelines to encourage civic audits of K-12 and post-secondary education. The Department of Education should initiate a national review process of civic audit findings; identify gaps in program delivery, assessment and understanding curriculum impact; and allocate resources to support initiatives to address these gaps.

    • The Department of Education should work with federal and state education oversight authorities to review K-12 and post-secondary education general education requirements, class offerings and, pedagogy that advance civic learning.

    • The Department of Education should revisit how federal dollars are being used to support post-secondary students work in the community. Examples are America Reads and trio programs.

    • The Department of Education should offer a bank of learning outcomes for K-12 and post-secondary intuitions could choose from with implementation strategies and measures for learning.

    • The Department of Education should offer a data base of best practices that K-12 and post-secondary institutions could select and adapt to meet their desired civic learning outcomes.

    • The Department of Education could require grants offered by the Department to have civic learning as measurable elements to be considered for funding.

    • The Department of Education should provide financial support for Higher Education to work with K-12 institutions on civic learning.

    • The Department of Education could provide civic learning outcomes based on institutional type (HBCU, Tribal, Private, and Public).

    • The Department of Education should track Federal Work Study monies being used to advance civic engagement (7% Federal Work Study Allocations) by college students and share examples of high impact practices.

    • The Department of Education should initiate dialogues with college and university career center directors on ways to incorporate civic professionalism in career education. The focus would be to ignite students’ awareness so they enter their career with civic purpose.

    • The Department of Education should develop strategies that educators could employ to engage Congress in the conversation about the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

    • The Department of Education should host state-wide conferences to look at how educators are bringing civic learning into the curriculum of K-12 and higher education.

    • The Department of Education should disseminate methods for how to relook at ways public higher education may participate in the public political process and infuse action orientated pedagogy in the classroom to situate student learning on topics of civic engagement.

    • The Department of Education should encourage higher education recognize and value faculty involvement in civic learning in the tenure and promotion process.

  21. Please find our feedback on how ED should implement four of the nine steps in your Advancing Civil Learning and Engagement in Democracy report. The report suggests that universities conduct civic audits and develop indicators and outcomes for educating students for informed engagement, I wonder if the Volunteer and Service Learning Center (VSLC) or Academic Service Learning (ASL) do this? The report also recommends identifying promising practices in civic learning and democratic engagement, as well as to encourage further research to learn what works. We could probably list the VSLC and ASL as two best practices. The report also suggests strengthening school- and campus-community connections, so we could recommend UTES as a best practice there.
    Step 1: To encourage postsecondary institutions to increase and enhance high-quality civic learning and engagement, the Department could reach out to existing university partnerships and/or organizations to enlist their assistance in sharing the report and recommendations. For instance, the American Educational Research Association, the Association for the Study of Higher Education, the University Council for Educational Administration, and other appropriate entities.
    Step 2: To help identify additional civic indicators, the Department mentioned that they will be adding additional questions to large national surveys at the K-12 levels and one at the postsecondary level. The Department could also reach out to and pursue adding questions to other large postsecondary surveys conducted at the national level, or ask individual universities and colleges for their participation.
    Step 3: In addition to requesting information through the National Center for Education Research, the Department could partner with leading peer reviewed journals or research organizations to create special issues or conference themes around civic learning and democratic engagement to encourage additional rigorous research. Examples include the journals and conferences associated with the American Educational Research Association, the Association for the Study of Higher Education, the University Council for Educational Administration, and other appropriate entities. The Department may also want to reach out to individual educational institutions to identify best practices. For instance at The University of Texas at Austin through the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement: The VSLC has many best practices in community engagement, community resource development, and academic service learning. Each year, the Volunteer and Service Learning Center recruits over 6,000 student volunteers and partners with over 150 non-profits to develop ongoing volunteer learning opportunities for UT students. The ASL program provides resources and support for faculty who are currently teaching or would like to teach an academic service-learning course, for students who are interested or enrolled in a service-learning course, and for community partners who are interested in collaborating with UT faculty and students. The UT Outreach Centers are located across the state in Austin, Dallas, Houston, Rio Grande Valley, and San Antonio. The Centers are designed to assist and encourage top 8% students, potential first generation, and free and reduced lunch students to attend the university after high school graduation. The Centers offer academic enrichment and college readiness services to students including college prep workshops, financial aid workshops, community service opportunities, future leader conferences, mentors, among many other services. Now in its tenth year of operation, The University of Texas Elementary School is firmly established as a research-based demonstration school in the heart of East Austin. The school holds a track record of success in serving urban children. Founded in 2003 as part of The UT System’s Every Child, Every Advantage initiative to support P-16 education, UT Elementary is operated by UT Austin as an open-enrollment campus, free to students, with a lottery-based admission system. The school enrolls children in grade levels pre-kindergarten through fifth. UT Elementary offers a full, TEKS-aligned curriculum, employs scientifically-based research and best teaching practices, and draws upon a variety of intellectual resources available at the university. Besides providing an educational alternative for East Austin children, UT Elementary also represents an effort to apply new knowledge produced in the academic setting directly to classrooms in urban schools, and it serves as a training and development site for future teachers, social workers, psychologists, speech therapists, and nurses currently enrolled in the University of Texas at Austin. They extend their best practices to the broader community through books, blogs, outreach training and mentoring programs, and national education conferences.
    Steps 8/9: For Minority-Serving Institutions, especially the institutions serving students who speak more than one language, a suggestion would be to offer more orientations and opportunities for participation (for students, as well as parents) in other languages so that they can understand the process as they are navigating the college process. This may also assist with Step 9, which seeks to highlight and promote student and family participation.

  22. Although the “Road Map for Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy” focuses on secondary and post-secondary educational contexts, I want to share with you the long-standing work that World Education, Inc. (WEI) has done to advance civic literacy and participation through adult education. Our goal is to build the capacity of adult literacy teachers and learners to take informed action in order to make a positive difference in their lives and communities, and to be engaged members of a democracy. Over the past 25 years, WEI has pulled together government and foundation funding to coordinate projects that integrate civics into ESOL, ABE, and citizenship curriculum and instruction. The attached paper outlines our approach to this work and the project-based learning process that has emerged from our engagement with dozens of programs. Specific projects are captured in our Civic Participation and Community Action Sourcebook. In that collection, examples of civic engagement are organized into four categories:
    •Holding Decision-Makers Accountable
    •Building Community by Helping Others
    •Expressing Ourselves and Educating Others
    •Organizing for Change.
    In separate messages, I will describe two other civics projects: one about voter engagement, another about collaborating with community organizations. I hope that the Department of Education recognizes the unique opportunity for civic education that exists in the adult education context, as this is where we find adults who, by virtue of being at the margins of our society, are the least civically engaged.

  23. Educators in New York City are looking forward to proceeding with the Civics Learning initiative described in your announcement. I have been a Project Director of Teaching American History grants for the past several years and with my peers I have experienced first-hand the positive changes that have taken place in teaching our country’s history to the over 1 million students in the New York City Department of Education. It is from that perspective that I make the following suggestions regarding the Civic Learning program. First, if the program includes professional development for K-12 teachers, the teacher/participant pool should be open to all teachers interested in improving student civic involvement, rather than limiting participation to Social Studies teachers. Civics is for all citizens and all teachers should be allowed to learn how to infuse Civics into their teaching. Second, the K-12 component would benefit from partnerships with organizations such as those listed in “Road Map Call To Action,” that provide authentic opportunities for students to actively engage in civic issues. If the grant opportunity includes requests for proposals that present new program models in such partnerships, an opportunity would be created to develop new, possibly exemplary, student civic engagement programs. Third, professional development and student participation in the social networking arena that relates to civic participation would improve the sustainability of civic action into the future. These suggestions are within the domain of realistic accomplishment, I believe, and include measurable goals.

  24. It is crucially important that ED maintain a broad definition of civic learning and engagement to include and stress civic skills and dispositions along with civic content. While students need to understand civic content to be effective citizens, this knowledge alone does not develop the types of engaged citizens necessary for a functioning democracy.

    One reason skills and dispositions are often de-emphasized is due to the complexity in measuring outcomes. For this reason, we recommend that ED support new longitudinal and experimental (random control) studies to measure outcomes. While the civic education field has established some solid measures for a indicators related to civic learning and engagement (e.g., school engagement, school attachment), the field lacks measures for other indicators (e.g., civic engagement). We propose that ED begin to address these deficiencies in the research base first by convening a group of key scholars from field and representatives to identify the existing strengths and weaknesses of the research base for civic learning and engagement. An outcome of this convening would be the development of short- and long-term strategic plans to follow in developing a rigorous and more complete research base for the field. Second, we recommend that ED appropriate the necessary funding to carry out these strategic plans.

    It is important for ED to catalyze the education community to embrace the civic mission of schools. We recommend that ED utilize existing meetings and conventions as a way to reach larger audiences who may not already identify as civic educators and present, through speakers and a series of conference sessions within existing national conferences in the education field. ED could potentially reach out to other subject areas (e.g., English, the Arts, Science, Mathematics) and role groups (e.g., teachers, administrators, policymakers, parents, the business community) when enacting this strategy.

    We support ED sponsoring a one-time national summit on civic learning and engagement, and simultaneously promoting this cause through a national publicity campaign. Such a national convening and campaign would help to build broad public support of civic learning and engagement, as well as allow those in the field to garner substantial support for their work from educators, policymakers, and parents.

    Recognition for high-quality civic learning and engagement would be a useful mechanism for catalyzing the education community to action. This program could provide recognition for excellence in the field and identify model programs and practices as exemplars for others in the field. ED could establish various types of awards, to possibly include school-level awards (similar to the National Blue Ribbon School award), student-level awards (similar to the Presidential Physical Fitness Award), state-level, etc., as well as awards for teacher education programs, professional development programs, curriculum development, etc.

    In terms of funding, ED could provide opportunities in i3 and Race to the Top for funding that is directed specifically toward civics. ED could also develop new competitive grant programs (available to states and non-profit organizations) to support civic learning and engagement programs and initiatives. Federal investments should give preference to active forms of civic learning (such as action civics) that will foster wider dissemination and implementation of classroom practices that foster all four domains of civic learning rather than just civic content knowledge.
    Any efforts to promote civic learning and engagement must be accompanied by efforts to support high-quality teaching. Educators, both pre-service and in-service, need sustained, integrated, high-quality professional development if they are to make meaningful change in the civic education practices in which they engage students.

  25. I appreciate receiving the request to provide input on civic engagement and service learning per the Obama Administration’s Road Map regarding advancing civic education and the Department’s involvement.

    In short, I applaud the effort! Not only as a way of increasing student retention, graduation rates, and developing the literacies important for the 21st century, but also for strengthening students’ active citizenry in the world. I often observe a disconnect among low-income students regarding their political understandings in particular of the role that big corporate money plays in the legislative branch of our government. Most students too are woefully unaware of important Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United and the impact that ruling has on political elections. The greater the level of apathy and disinterest in civic matters, the greater the opportunity for big money interests to influence the political process. In the end then, the social justice and public interests of poor Americans are less likely to be advanced in any appreciable way. This all at a time when income disparity between the top 1% of privileged Americans and the lowest wage-earners has reached an all-time high.

    In our TRiO-SSS project at Paul Smith’s College, we regularly incorporate community service as part of the cultural enrichment component of our service delivery model. We usually engage in at least two structured activities each program year. We always do something in conjunction with National TRiO Day and usually one or more activities at other times of the academic year, mostly focusing on assisting vulnerable populations in our local community or elsewhere.

    We are considering developing a more formal civic learning component in our project and piloting it over the remainder of the academic year. We are discussing the involvement of assessment tools to gauge civic literacy, partnering with faculty on service learning projects, and tying a fuller component to eligibility for receiving Grant Aid. We are also considering the use of film and video such as showing documentaries like Park Avenue produced by Independent Lens which recently aired on PBS. We will continue to use TRiO Day as a day of service in support of area food pantries like in the past. We will continue to incorporate our sustainability initiative and related community service activities to educate students about climate change (and the vulnerability of low-income populations across the globe) and other environmental threats and the role of students as change agents.

    One suggestion would be to include civic engagement as a form of permissible services for TRiO programs. Making it a required service would present budget challenges for many long-standing projects which have fiscal challenges given recent cuts. I found many older projects have difficulty fitting any cultural enrichment activities into their service delivery models. It may therefore be helpful to award a small amount of additional funding to projects who plan to incorporate civic learning on an annual basis (step 4). Giving projects ample freedom to pursue a variety of partnerships and allowable use of funds would provide a greater incentive for projects to include this initiative in their grant proposals.

    Regarding Step #5, what if you utilized TRiO programs (when available) to facilitate finding FWS positions in the local community as a form of partnership with their respective civic engagement initiatives?

    There are a lot of opportunities to incorporate financial literacy education (required service) with other permissible services, and step #6 speaks to one of these. I would think the curricula of the respective institution in terms of public service related careers would be a deciding factor in implementing #6.

    What if this initiative was used also for helping low-income families prepare more for increased fuel prices and the threats posed by climate change? It was low-income folks who were left behind in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Now Hurricane Sandy is turning out to be one of the most expensive natural disasters to hit the Atlantic coast. This comes soon after Hurricane Irene devastated parts of the East coast a year earlier. The increase in extreme weather events is being fueled by global warming. Perhaps the Obama Administration can make a greater investment in addressing climate change by tying preparedness through the civic engagement initiative. Strengthening resiliency in neighborhoods would go a long way in weathering the storms and rebuilding in smarter ways.

    Lastly, with all the recent concern about the country falling off the fiscal cliff due to the automatic lifting of the Bush tax cuts combined with domestic spending cuts taking effect on Jan. 2, I see no better opportunity to educate and engage our students on such matters than the present time. The viability and continuity of TRiO programs will be seriously threatened if Congress does not change the rules of sequestration.

  26. As both a doctoral student in education and a teacher, I am disheartened that, in my elementary school, purposeful civic learning is almost nonexistent due to the myopic focus on preparation for tests in literacy and math. As a nation, we have lost our understanding of one of the most important purposes for education, the preparation of all young people to contribute to the common good.

    I applaud these efforts to make civic education a priority in our schools again. However, I would urge decisionmakers to focus on K-12 education and to consider how civic education can be integrated across subject areas and be designed in a way that underlies the entire curriculum. It is important to align this work with other initiatives, such as the current focus on the Common Core. For instance, schools might not only be assessed on standardized test scores, but also how students apply their learning to improve their communities (which would also be a more authentic indicator of 21st century skills development). Earth Force is one organization that has taken this more integrated approach in working with teachers and students.
    Also, I want to echo other contributors’ calls for development of intercultural competencies as part of civic education. It is important to recognize that effective civic engagement today requires the ability to build bridges across lines of difference.

    Thank you!

  27. How the U.S. Department of Education Might Define and Support Civic Learning and Engagement

    A Response from Wagner College

    A. How ED Defines “Civic Learning and Engagement”
    Wagner College has a long history of promoting civic learning and engagement through its highly integrated academic curriculum and its robust co-curricular offerings. At least since the 1998 launch of the Wagner Plan for the Practical Liberal Arts, the college has demonstrated its commitment to “learning by doing” through clusters of courses called learning communities linked to real-world, community-based problems. Over time, this twin commitment to enriched student learning through community engagement and to utilizing Wagner’s strengths to address a variety of community challenges has only intensified. Civic engagement encompasses a wide array of activities at Wagner College that include close observations of community practitioners, active participation in the work of key community organizations, and neighborhood-based inquiry and research. All of these activities are centered on connecting our students and faculty to the larger community to enrich academic learning and to promote the well-being of our community partners.
    Wagner has learned over time that civic learning and engagement should include the following:

    • Consciously and meaningfully connecting classroom learning to existing community challenges;

    • Encouraging student participation in hands-on, community-based activities that may entail observation, community involvement, or research, and that support authentic college-community collaborations;

    • Systematically preparing for and reflecting on place-based experiences to foster deeper explorations of the roots of community challenges and to help students understand the impact of their own civic contributions;

    • Students as co-authors in defining and developing the College’s civic mission;

    • Increasing appreciation for the value of civic knowledge and collaborating with others to take action in the community to advance the public good.

    For Wagner, then, the richest civic learning and engagement builds on classroom-based theoretical knowledge, deepens student understanding through community-based activity and critical reflection, raises civic consciousness and commitment, and fosters student empowerment through actual, hands-on participation in addressing real issues facing real communities.

    B. How ED will Support Civic learning

    1. Convene and catalyze the education community to increase and enhance high-quality civic learning and engagement opportunities.

    Wagner College is engaging in a series of professional development and workshop opportunities to explore the philosophy underlying democratic education and civic engagement and to understand more clearly the pedagogies and community practices that should be adopted to ensure high quality civic opportunities. Community members and college faculty understand how civic engagement deepens learning and critical thinking. They are also familiar with strategies that encourage broad involvement by students and community partners to approach entrenched social problems with greater confidence. The next big step entails fully embedding civic engagement into the curriculum at every level and in both the general curriculum and the requirements for academic majors.

    2. Identify civic learning and engagement indicators to measure student outcomes and encouraging further research to learn more about appropriate and effective program design.

    Wagner has learned that there is a strong correlation between students who are active in the community and those who express a high level of satisfaction with the education they are receiving. In addition, there is some evidence that students with especially high levels of motivation and achievement are also those who most frequently seek out civic engagement opportunities. One key measure, which probably can only be captured longitudinally, would be to uncover evidence that those students who are most civically engaged as undergraduates are also more likely to be activists in their professions and in their communities. From a community perspective, Wagner is starting to measure the extent to which problems like low literacy levels, obesity, and economic stagnation can be addressed through joint initiatives between colleges and their surrounding communities, and whether the number of high school students seeking admission to college can be dramatically increased by strengthening college-community partnerships.

    3. Leverage federal investments and public-private partnerships to support civic learning and engagement activities where permitted and feasible.

    The foundation for much of Wagner’s initial civic engagement work came through a 2006 Learn and Serve America Grant that allowed Wagner to launch its Civic Innovations program, connecting six different academic departments to specific community agencies focused on healthcare, education, and economic development. Since that initial federal grant, Wagner has been successful in working with a wide variety of private foundations to leverage funds to sustain and extend civic engagement work. Interestingly, Wagner has probably been most satisfied with the support of its local community funding partners, who have recognized Wagner’s ongoing contributions and have come to appreciate Wagner’s long-term commitment to community renewal. It is worth noting that each of the local bank foundations on Staten Island have supported these efforts. This experience indicates that colleges seeking additional support to deepen this work should focus on cultivating funders and partners in their own regions at least as much they seek funding from nationally known foundations. The next big step for Wagner could come from a large grant to finance the expansion of the Center for Leadership and Engagement so that it might act as a regional or national clearinghouse for best practices, while playing a role in hosting conferences and disseminating research about high impact practices.

    4. Highlight and promote civic learning and engagement opportunities for students, families, and other stakeholders as collaborators and problem-solvers in education.

    Wagner has always assumed that its best and most reliable collaborators in promoting civic learning and engagement are its near-by community partners. Recently, during a planning session, college leaders were invited to identify key stakeholders and it was striking how many of those named were based in the community. Wagner’s orientation continues to be that community partners teach Wagner students as much as Wagner does itself. Thus, community partners are widely regarded as true collaborators in both educating students and in contributing to the community’s renewal. Students, too, are regarded as invaluable collaborators in the educational process and now have a formal role as advisors, thanks to the creation of a Student Advisory Board overseeing one of the College’s key partnerships. Wagner has found that the more students are empowered to participate in formulating civic engagement opportunities, the more eager they are to sustain their civic learning and civic action for the common good.

  28. Feedback on Civic Learning and Engagement from the University at Buffalo SSS and McNair Scholars Program Directors, November 8, 2012

    Definition of civic learning/engagement: From our reading of the provided documents, we caution the ED not to conflate civic learning/engagement with service learning. Perhaps look at financial literacy as example of defining a complex concept. The definition lends itself to having several points under a broader definition. When discussing civic learning, one must be careful not to limit it to voting or contacting elected representatives.

    Why Trio and Civic Engagement? Because civic learning/engagement has been shown to increase academic performance, it fits TRiO’s objectives of retention/graduation and academic achievement. By attaching civic engagement to TRiO, ED could build on federal resources that already exist, tap a community of students already connected to their civic communities, use the pipeline of growth already established (i.e., from TS to UB, to SSS, to McNair), and rely on existing networks of support with potential to create more connections.

    What (we) TRiO does now: The following is a partial list of events and program activities, in place at the University at Buffalo TRiO programs, that fall under the term civic learning and engagement:

    TRiO Day: one day where area TRiO students gather to celebrate achievement, learn about themselves as members of TRiO program, create mutually beneficial networks, complete community service, and write to their national representatives about their experiences in TRiO.

    Policy Seminar: TRiO staff and students visit DC for three days to meet with and inform national representatives about TRiO and its accomplishments. Participants also engage in a training day to help them communicate a central message effectively.

    History of TRiO: students and staff continuously learn how TRiO programs were formed and why, and how they have evolved over time.

    Community Service: Students and staff engage in several opportunities per semester to help others in need.

    Civic Internships Promoted to TRiO Students: For example, all TRiO students at the University at Buffalo learn about internships in the state and federal capitals geared toward TRiO students, among other opportunities to learn about how government operates.

    Visiting Local Representatives: TRiO staff have communicated with local offices of national representatives to inform them about TRiO activities.

    Web Sites and Social Media: TRiO students and staff utilize twitter feeds, blogs, web sites, Facebook groups, and other evolving social media as a means to educate and engage in civics.

    TRiO Program Newsletters: in print and electronic formats, are circulated widely within and externally to the University at Buffalo to inform publics about federal programs at work.

    Advising: TRiO staff advise students into co-curricular learning opportunities (e.g., internships, e-board positions, community service programs) that put students to work for their wider communities.

    Mentoring: TRiO college students mentor Upward Bound students.
    Cultural events: Events, such as touring local stops on the Underground Railroad and listening to a Native-American Storyteller, help TRiO students at the University at Buffalo learn about their communities’ history and foster engagement in their communities.

    What TRiO could do: The following are suggestions that would assist ED in achieving its goal of increasing civic learning and engagement: see TRiO programs as one possible location of civic learning and engagement by making civic learning/engagement a required service in TRiO programs (similar to how financial literacy has become a required service, with measurable learning outcomes); require reports (i.e., APR) to include number of students who participated in civic learning/engagement; use TRiO as a means to increase civic learning/engagement to lower-income and disadvantaged students; use TRiO communities to share existing best practices that foster civic learning/engagement; promote the notion of “gap year” experience (such as AmeriCorps) to help students find direction in life; build on the existing individualized services in TRiO to foster reflection and self-assessment, through individual conversations, writing, and group discussions, on students’ civic learning/engagement.

  29. With respect to the development of indicators, it would be very helpful for the Department of Education to pull together those who are doing this work so that best practices can be shared. I imagine a set of conversations like the ones put together by the Kettering Foundation, where institutional researchers at the community colleges can get together with other researchers interested in the subject to share instruments and develop some model assessment instruments to be used broadly. It would also be helpful to get Department of Education funding for some best practices on civic engagement across the curriculum. Students get civics in government classes and many colleges have service learning where students learn disciplinary knowledge connected to public service, but there needs to be more progress on how all teachers can connect their disciplines with the ways that their disciplinary knowledge helps as part of the civic landscape. It would be terrific to have a faculty institute where people doing this work and thinking about doing it can come together to share ideas and develop approaches. It would also be great to fund some pilot programs in this area.

  30. Thank you for the opportunity to share a few ideas about the kinds of skills that we as educators ought to help our students develop so that they may participate broadly and productively in a global economic community. In my experience as an educator at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (2006-2012) and, now, at the College of William & Mary (August 2012-present), I am happy to say that my students are very good at finding information. However, I would like to suggest that we need to better prepare students to evaluate sources. Our students have more access than ever to a rich variety of print and digital media, but they do not always know how to determine the reliability of the information or how to analyze conflicting accounts. I shared this email with a few colleagues, and they agreed that it was important to equip students to navigate a changing landscape of information. They also suggested that we might better educate our students about the basics of government — the nitty-gritty details of how a bill becomes a law, for instance, so that our students might better understand their roles and clarify their expectations as voters.

  31. I really could not appreciate my fellowship more. It has given me the opportunity to focus on school work and worry less about affording the high cost of tuition. More so, it has inspired me to work harder towards achieving good grades and becoming a more aware, educated and productive member of our international community. Thank you so much for supporting me! I hope that such support will continue to be available to students of the future.

  32. In order to prepare American students to be responsible 21st century citizens, we need to give them the opportunity to study foreign languages and cultures throughout their elementary, secondary and college / university education. Learning a second language will help students communicate with people across the globe. They will become more open minded so they can engage multiple points of view and build bridges across differences. They will learn mutual respect for others. They will gain a global perspective rather than an ethnocentric one. Language learning also encourages critical thinking such as inquiry, comparison, and analysis.

    For too long, Americans have relied on other people to learn our language to communicate with us. But this puts Americans at a significant disadvantage when negotiating, traveling, competing for jobs, understanding cultural situations, and dealing with international affairs. It is time for Americans to become well-prepared, competent communicators by learning at least one (preferably more) foreign language.

    Most students in the U.S. don’t start learning a foreign language until high school or college. This is better than never, but too late for most students to become competent and proficient at a foreign language. Some students never learn any language beyond English. Early and continuous foreign language and culture instruction can prepare students for careers and help them to be responsible world citizens.

  33. Thank you for the opportunity to share a few ideas about the kinds of skills that we as educators ought to help our students develop so that they may participate broadly and productively in a global economic community. In my experience as an educator at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (2006-2012) and, now, at the College of William & Mary (August 2012-present), I am happy to say that my students are very good at finding information. However, I would like to suggest that we need to better prepare students to evaluate sources. Our students have more access than ever to a rich variety of print and digital media, but they do not always know how to determine the reliability of the information or how to analyze conflicting accounts.

    I shared this email with a few colleagues, and they agreed that it was important to equip students to navigate a changing landscape of information. They also suggested that we might better educate our students about the basics of government — the nitty-gritty details of how a bill becomes a law, for instance, so that our students might better understand their roles and clarify their expectations as voters.

  34. Ideas about how the Department of Education can implement the steps to enhance and expand its longstanding support for civic learning and democratic engagement.

    By: Dr. Ana Helvia Quintero
    Project Director
    Puerto Rico’s College Access Challenge Grant Program

    1)Convene and catalyze schools and postsecondary institutions to increase and enhance high-quality civic learning and engagement.
    My experience in school improvement projects has taught me the value of peer learning. So, one could identify, fund and use as a learning site best practices in civic learning and engagement.

    2)Identify promising practices in civic learning and democratic engagement—and encourage further research to learn what works.
    In the process of research, action research should be encouraged.

    3)Support civic learning for a well-rounded K–12 curriculum.
    There are many ways of promoting civic learning. I have learned from practical experience that the best ways to support civic learning is not through direct teaching but by creating school practices that support civic actions. Examples include service activities, respect for students opinions, and for diversity. So I propose that civic learning should not be an extra course, but should be deeply integrated across the curriculum, as well as in school’s every day activities.

    4) Engage Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority-Serving Institutions—including Hispanic Serving Institutions, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander–Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities—in a national dialogue to identify best practices.

    Puerto Rico will be very willing to participate in this dialogue. Indeed as part of our College Access Challenge Grant Program, we are collaboratively funding a Center that works in motivating, counseling and preparing low income students so that they can follow university studies. The Center is staff with university students. The experience of helping and getting to know the school students have been a great lesson in civic learning for the university students. We are in the process of developing an evaluation tool to measure students’ civic learning through this experience.

  35. As a recently retired school principal and school teacher, I have long felt that in general US students across the country are unaware of our diversity and geographic problems. I believe that ALL students should “give back” to our country and would propose that for one year students should be relocated to another part of our country to do volunteer work. I am not sure how we would finance that but I do believe the benefits would be huge. I was the recipient of many Fulbright Teacher Programs (to Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and India) and bringing the knowledge of these countries and people back to my students and community members had a profound impact on my school and community.

  36. In order to prepare American students to be responsible 21st century citizens, we need to give them the opportunity to study foreign languages and cultures throughout their elementary, secondary and college / university education. Learning a second language will help students communicate with people across the globe. They will become more open minded so they can engage multiple points of view and build bridges across differences. They will learn mutual respect for others. They will gain a global perspective rather than an ethnocentric one. Language learning also encourages critical thinking such as inquiry, comparison, and analysis. For too long, Americans have relied on other people to learn our language to communicate with us. However, this puts Americans at a significant disadvantage when negotiating, traveling, competing for jobs, understanding cultural situations, and dealing with international affairs. It is time for Americans to become well-prepared, competent communicators by learning at least one (preferably more) foreign language. Most students in the U.S. don’t start learning a foreign language until high school or college. This is better than never, but too late for most students to become competent and proficient at a foreign language. Some students never learn any language beyond English. Early and continuous foreign language and culture instruction can prepare students for careers and help them be responsible world citizens.

  37. I applaud the effort!  Not only as a way of increasing student retention, graduation rates, and developing the literacies important for the 21st century, but also for strengthening students’ active citizenry in the world.  I often observe a disconnect among low-income students regarding their political understandings in particular of the role that big corporate money plays in the legislative branch of our government.  Most students too are woefully unaware of important Supreme Court decisions, such as Citizens United and the impact that ruling has on political elections.  The greater the level of apathy and disinterest in civic matters, the greater the opportunity for big money interests to influence the political process. In our TRiO-SSS project at Paul Smith’s College, we regularly incorporate community service as part of the cultural enrichment component of our service delivery model.  We usually engage in at least two structured activities each program year.  We always do something in conjunction with National TRiO Day and usually one or more activities at other times of the academic year, mostly focusing on assisting vulnerable populations in our local community or elsewhere. We are considering developing a more formal civic learning component in our project and piloting it over the remainder of the academic year.  We are discussing the involvement of assessment tools to gauge civic literacy, partnering with faculty on service learning projects, and tying a fuller component to eligibility for receiving Grant Aid.  We are also considering the use of film and video such as showing documentaries like Park Avenue produced by Independent Lens, which recently aired on PBS.  We will continue to use TRiO Day as a day of service in support of area food pantries like in the past.  We will continue to incorporate our sustainability initiative and related community service activities to educate students about climate change (and the vulnerability of  low-income populations across the globe) and other environmental threats and the role of students as change agents. One suggestion would be to include civic engagement as a form of permissible services for TRiO programs.  Making it a required service would present budget challenges for many long-standing projects which have fiscal challenges given recent cuts.  I found many older projects have difficulty fitting any cultural enrichment activities into their service delivery models.  It may therefore be helpful to award a small amount of additional funding to projects that plan to incorporate civic learning on an annual basis (step 4).  Giving projects ample freedom to pursue a variety of partnerships and allowable use of funds would provide a greater incentive for projects to include this initiative in their grant proposals. Regarding Step #5, what if you utilized TRiO programs (when available) to facilitate finding FWS positions in the local community as a form of partnership with their respective civic engagement initiatives? There are a lot of opportunities to incorporate financial literacy education (required service) with other permissible services, and step #6 speaks to one of these.  I would think the curricula of the respective institution in terms of public service related careers would be a deciding factor in implementing #6. What if this initiative was used also for helping low-income families prepare more for increased fuel prices and the threats posed by climate change? Perhaps the Obama Administration can make a greater investment in addressing climate change  by tying preparedness through the civic engagement initiative.  Strengthening resiliency in neighborhoods would go a long way in weathering the storms and rebuilding in smarter ways.

  38. Our society seems to be more polarized than ever before. These nine steps to Civic Learning and Engagement are so needed as a culture. I work for a TRIO-SSS program and would deem it imperative to have the first step be a part of our program. We can also start encouraging our students to find careers in public service, as posed in step six. One final recommendation would be to include debate in step seven. Our youth should learn how to argue with and listen to each other in a civilized manner.

  39. Though you are looking for input on the definition of civic learning and engagement, there is already such a definition in footnote one.  Not sure why that one won’t work.

  40. As a teacher, I feel that students should learn civic engagement by participating “hands on”. In these difficult economic times, many college students have one or two jobs to support themselves during their college years. Many extracurricular clubs and organizations are not able to hold student support due to the above mentioned. My suggestion is to create courses OR include in already existing courses opportunities to participate in AND receive college credit for civic engagement activities.

    I saw in the evening news two days ago that a local elementary school was had created mock elections and ALL the students in the school were involved…from the political speeches to the campaigning, all the way to the final vote. I sat there thinking..it’s about time!! (in the past these types of activities have been organized in high school, but we need to begin earlier in a student’s life.). Volunteering ..is already in place in the college life, but we need students learning about the importance of participating/lending a voice in a Democratic society.

  41. Dear Sir/Madam,

    Thanks for sharing word about this nice initiative. You ask for comments, I’ll be brief.

    From experience with college students, and even grad students in a public university, I can diagnose the problem as a failure of the educational system to work.

    People have learned to think with their liver: justify what they “feel” is right. Once they’ve taken a position, they stay in it, and defend it no matter what. They have also learned to think in black and white: either you’re all for something or all against something. Every issue is very quickly turned into an antagonistic fight.

    Balanced thinking in terms of listing pros and cons, and then making a nuanced statement is woefully absent.

    Sounds familiar? Yes, the result is unproductive partisan gridlock of the type we’ve seen in politics.

    What is needed is not civic classes per se, but an infusion of any class throughout the system (K-12 and college) with a strong dose of teaching how to think in a nuanced way.

    It’s as simple as teachers modeling this behavior during class discussions: writing down pros and cons of the issue debated on the black (white or smart) board.

    Getting the students beyond antagonism and positions they are vested in to defend no matter what, to think clearly and weigh all sides of an issue.

    Encourage those who initially could think only of cons, to find some pros and vice versa.

    If you get this promoted, I think there is hope for the nation.

  42. I think the idea of civic learning and engagement in Democracy is a great idea. However, as a political science teacher I know it is most difficult to have the students engage in something in which they have very little knowledge.

    In many colleges and universities today it is not a general education requirement that students take a course in American Government. Yet we will require that they take courses in subjects which are nice but not critical to getting them aware of the political system and their civic role in society.

    When students are unable to even identify the 3 branches of government or even know who the Vice Presidnet of the U.S. is, why should we expect them to be interested in Civic Learning and Engagement.

    Joe Overton

  43. It very important for young Americans to learn to lead in the developmental years. The concept should focus on the understanding of what public policy is, how it is formed and institute and how it leads to issues and responsible citizenship. Learning to lead should prepare a new generation of individuals with the knowledge and skills to lead in a time of rapid demographic, social, economic, and global change.

  44. You asked for my thoughts. I read with increasing respect for the authors of this endeavor, President Obama and Sec. Duncan.

    In reading the nine steps outlined in the Obama administration’s “Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy”, I find cohesive, clearly-articulated steps that found well-integrated revisions to our educational systems.

    Our public school systems are in need of revitalization coordinated from the national level, and our students, their families, and our teachers are in need of the reinvigorated hope that it will bring, certainly.

    If I may venture an observation, one set of ideas strikes me as underlying the nine steps, and best summarized by the title of one of the sessions hosted at the White House in its event, “For Democracy’s Future: Education Reclaims Our Civic Mission”. The session was called “Build and Strengthen Community-Campus Connections”.

    It is interaction between the school and the community that needs to be built, from local to global levels, it is involvement of community in school affairs that will make school relevant, it is getting acquainted across socio-economic lines that will make us aware if new opportunities, and optimally so.

    If a school has a building, it has a campus. If it has a campus in the United States, it is serving more than one community. In many neighborhoods in our nation’s cities, one can cross a street and find oneself in completely different cultural setting only a few spare yards away. Commensurately, our nation’s small towns, while losing population, draw new residents from those who’ve been displaced by life’s vagaries.

    Each and every school, therefore, must meet unique needs. Likewise, every school culture casts its own stamp of hopes and aspirations. The only experts qualified to identify those needs are people from within the communities serving and being served by the school. People who are moderators are needed to keep the dialogue active. They are important, also, as spokepeople who convey the most poignant ideas from the local to the national level.

    The ideas that the moderators dispatch are the life-blood of education’s success. We must not hesitate to consider them and use them well. Step 4 on the ‘Roadmap”, is to “Leverage federal investments and public-private partnerships”. It represents the community-school interaction at the national level, and is the development in education that will see the greatest gain yet, historically.

    When we become acquainted with one another, we realize how much we have in common, and furthermore, how logical it is that we feel such kinship. At that point we are made aware of how much opportunity we provide to one another.

    Martha S. Held\
    M.A., Arabic Language and Linguistics, Indiana University
    B.A., French Language, Brown University

  45. Take a group of students to city government offices, courthouse, etc. to learn about the careers there. Have speakers from government and local agencies, such as the lead agency. Post volunteer opportunities in the community on the college website. Have students email a congressman about a local concern.

  46. 1) Convene and catalyze schools and postsecondary institutions to increase and enhance high-quality civic learning and engagement. My experience in school improvement projects has shown me how effective peer learning is from promising practice. So, one could identify, fund, and use as a learning site best practices in civic learning and engagement. 2) Identify promising practices in civic learning and democratic engagement—and encourage further research to learn what works. In the process of research, action research should be encouraged. 3) Support civic learning for a well-rounded K–12 curriculum. There are many ways of promoting civic learning. I have learned from practical experience that the best ways to support civic learning is not through direct teaching, but by creating school practices that support civic actions. For example, service activities, respect for students opinions, and for diversity. So I propose that civic learning should not be an extra course, but should be deeply integrated across the curriculum, as well as on school’s every day activities. 4) Engage Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority-Serving Institutions—including Hispanic Serving Institutions, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander–Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities—in a national dialogue to identify best practices. Puerto Rico will be very willing to participate in this dialogue. Indeed as part of our College Access Challenge Grant Program, we are collaboratively funding a Center that works in motivating, counseling and preparing low income students so that they can follow university studies. The Center is staffed with university students. The experience of helping and getting to know the school students has been a great lesson in civic learning for the university students. We are in the process of developing an evaluation tool to measure students’ civic learning through this experience.

  47. As a recently retired school principal and school teacher, I have long felt that in general U.S. students across the country are unaware of our diversity and geographic problems.  I believe that ALL students should “give back” to our country and would propose that for one year students should be relocated to another part of our country to do volunteer work.  I am not sure how we would finance that, but I do believe the benefits would be huge. I was the recipient of many Fulbright Teacher Programs (to Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and India) and bringing the knowledge of these countries and people back to my students and community members had a profound impact on my school and community. 

  48. Hello:

    As a Social Studies teacher, I would recommend the following in teaching about Civics Education:

    1. Use of IPADs with the Constitution app.
    2. Hands-on with signing of documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and making a celebration of it.
    3. Arranging field trips to voting poll places, national parks and monuments and the Liberty Bell Museum.
    4. Learning and using the Common Core Standards.

  49. As a parent and educator, I am pleased to see that efforts are being made to revitalize the American pride and synergy in today’s students. September 11 did more to our psyche than we realize. Although schools say the Pledge of Allegiance every day, something is missing. I saw it in the eyes of the Olympic athletes and on some of the faces of professional athletes as the national anthem is played or sung at ball games. Lately, it seems as if most people reflect strongly on the “land of the free,” but not so much the on the “home of the brave.” We must be bold enough to say and believe that we live in one of the greatest countries. And drilling deeper, we must also feel that way about our states and cities in which we live. That’s truly where the deep-rooted pride is instilled.

    In noticing that there was a focus on college students, the endeavor could also include the younger children as well. The city where I grew up (Savannah, GA) like others have implemented a community service component for every high school student. Not only must they perform community service each year, but they also have to write a report on what they learned. Some students started out just doing the work and ended up really enjoying themselves and committing to do more than the required time. High school students are donating blood on a regular basis. Some capable adults are not even doing that. Students are spending time at nursing homes and hospitals. They are cleaning up their communities and attending youth county and city leadership committee meetings.

    Perhaps this is being done already, but just as students are rewarded for academic and athletic accomplishments, perhaps a certificate from the President would be an incentive. Or perhaps allowing them to submit their pictures on a website or video them “in action” performing a service learning project.

    There is much good to be done. This is just a start, and a really good one. Good luck!

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