activism without ideology is hard

Traditionally, most student activism had ideological motivations. Most students (and faculty) would take action as muscular Christians, socialists, liberals, anarchists, Young Republicans, Maoists, or under some other label of that type. Their label would not only stand for abstract ideas but also for living heroes, strategies, organizations, career paths, specific publications–even hairstyles and music.

Today, we often ask students to do civic work in a thoroughly open-minded fashion, with full attention to local circumstances and diverse people’s views. I resonate to that philosophy but I think it makes motivation, recruitment, organization, and sustainability much harder.

Or so I argue in my “provocation,” one of 16 in a monograph edited by Don Harward and available free from Bringing Theory to Practice. All the provocations were casual, 10-minute talks delivered at a conference last fall, transcribed, and lightly edited for publication. They adopt very diverse perspectives on civic work, and are worth a read.

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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.