Category Archives: democratic reform overseas

Transatlantic Exchange of Civic Educators (TECE): School Based and Non-Formal Civics in Germany and the USA

The Tisch College of Civic Life is excited to announce the launch of the Transatlantic Exchange of Civic Educators (TECE), a new project in partnership with the Association of German Educational Organizations (AdB). This fellowship will bring together ten participants from Germany and ten from the United States to engage in dialogue in the field of extracurricular/OST youth and young adult civic learning.

From July 2021 through March 2022, fellows will participate actively in in-person exchange activities in Germany and the U.S., as well as online programming to include peer-learning seminars, site-visits, and thematic small-group work.

Are you involved in the field of civic learning with young people (ages 12-29) in a community or youth work organization, after school association, museum, historical site, youth organizing nonprofit, research association or other related institution? Can you commit to enhancing your own practice and boosting the work of your organization through international professional exchange?

We are eager to accept your application by the deadline on May 18th. More information on the program and how to apply can be found here.

As part of our project launch, we will host an open event, “Civic Learning vs. Politische Bildung: A Discussion of Concepts, Infrastructures and Approaches in the US and Germany”, on April 20 at 11:00am EST/5:00pm CET with Dr. Peter Levine, Associate Dean and Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs in Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, and Prof. Bettina Heinrich, Professor of Social Work and Culture Work at the Protestant University of Applied Sciences Ludwigsburg. The main event will be followed by an informal Q&A session, where applicants can ask questions about the application process. The event will be held in English. To register, please visit:

Please contact with any questions.


The effort to reengage in transatlantic dialogue in the field of youth civic learning comes at a critical time, as both Germany and the United States experience similar societal challenges: structural racism, right-wing populism, polarization and mistrust of democratic institutions and the media, not to mention a strained transatlantic relationship, all exacerbated further by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Germany, the field of non-formal civic education, which falls within the broader “youth work” sector, is legally established and involves a rich array of public and civil society institutions. This system has roots in the democratic “reeducation” effort post WWII in Germany, which was led by the United States. It has its own guiding principles and professional field, separate from school-based civics.

Even though they share a connected history, interactions between school-based and non-formal civic education and between German and US civic educators been sparse. Professional discourse has developed separately, resulting in distinct and diverse infrastructures, concepts, and approaches. In bringing together actors in the field of civic learning, civic engagement and civic youth work from two national approaches and infrastructures, we hope to unlock opportunities for mutual learning through an investigation of common challenges and respective approaches, as well as to identify promising new concepts and future partnerships.  

Deliberative Democracy and Civic Life: A Civic Studies Conference in Sarajevo/Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

October 8-10, 2021

Sponsored by Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life and the association “i-dijaspora,” Switzerland

Co-organized by Peter Levine, Tufts University, and Nenad Stojanovi?, University of Geneva, with academic collaborations in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Discussions about deliberative democracy represent one significant area of focus for the emerging interdisciplinary field of Civic Studies (Levine and So?tan 2014). Deliberative democracy is also a component of the Council of Europe’s Action Plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina and inspires ongoing work in the City of Mostar. An international group of scholars and practitioners will meet from 8 October (evening) until 10 October (midday) to learn about the deliberations in Mostar, to consider theoretical frameworks and their practical applications, and to discuss the value–and possible limitations–of deliberation. Participants will be asked to read selected texts in advance and will spend the time in discussion.

Approximately 20 participants will be selected on the basis of their backgrounds and expertise, level of interest in the topic, and diversity of perspectives. Postgraduate students, university faculty, journalists, and experienced practitioners from civil society and government are welcome to apply. Applicants are welcome from any country. There is no fee for participation, and meals will be provided. Limited subsidies will be available for travel and lodgings for some of those who demonstrate need. The language of the readings and discussions will be English.

To apply, please complete this form, which will include a request to upload your CV.
Deadline: 30 April 2021

why protect civil liberties in a pandemic?

This article is now in print: Levine, P. Why protect civil liberties during a pandemic? Journal of Public Health Policy (2021). Springer is making the full text available here. The abstract follows:

During a public health emergency, a government must balance public welfare, equity, individual rights, and democratic processes and norms. These goods may conflict. Although science has a role in informing wise policy, no empirical evidence or algorithm can determine how to balance competing goods under conditions of uncertainty. Especially in a crisis, it is crucial to have a broad and free conversation about public policy. Many countries are moving in the opposite direction. Sixty one percent of governments have imposed at least some problematic restrictions on individual rights or democratic processes during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 17 have made substantial negative changes. The policies of Poland and Hungary reflect these global trends and continue these countries’ recent histories of democratic erosion. The expertise of public health should be deployed in defense of civil liberties.

inequality in India and the UK, 1930 and today

(Baton Rouge, LA) In 1930, Gandhi wrote to the Viceroy of India–one of innumerable such letters. His thesis: British rule in India was a “curse.” Among his complaints: the Viceroy was paid five thousand times as much as the average Indian, whereas the British Prime Minister was paid only 90 times as much as the average Briton. Gandhi didn’t quite spell it out, but I think he implied that a government that depends on the consent of the governed will not overpay its leaders, but an empire may.

Today, India has a Prime Minister of its own. His official governmental salary is about US $26,400 per year, which is about 414 times the median income of his countrymen ($616/year).* That ratio is less than a tenth of the ratio in 1930. As Gandhi would have predicted, democratic India pays its leader much less than imperial Britain did, at least in comparison to ordinary incomes.

PM Modi declares assets of about US $350,000, but I have no idea whether such disclosures are credible. Of course, his office comes with many perks–not only the usual ones (official residences, travel, etc.), but also things like free tolls on all national highways.

Gandhi didn’t calculate the ratio between the UK Prime Minister’s salary and the average Indian salary in his time, but based on his numbers, I think it was 640-t0-one. Today, the UK Prime Minister is paid just under US $200,000 per year. That is about five times the mean individual salary in the UK, 100 times the mean income in India, and 7.5 times the salary of his Indian counterpart. The first two ratios represent a considerable improvement in equity compared to 1930. Still, the PM’s salary (by itself) would put him in the top 1% in Britain. Boris Johnson is reported to hold assets of about $2 million. And he has a nice free house in Downing Street.

If someone today were paid 5,000 times as much as a median Indian, as the Viceroy was in 1930, that would translate to about US $3 million in annual income. That would be much higher than any government salary but far lower than the highest salaries in India’s private sector. Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar earned US $65 million last year. That is 105,000 times the median income. Mukesh Ambani, who leads Reliance Industries, has an estimated net worth of $58.4 billion.

What do these changes suggest? First, democratic and independent nations do put downward pressure on the salaries of their leaders. In fact, US $200,000 is a modest salary for the leader of the whole British Government, if one compares it to CEOs’ salaries in the private sector. However, democracies still tolerate large gaps between the pay of their political leaders and average people–perhaps wisely, to attract talent to the government. And they offer sometimes surprising perks that are not only valuable in market terms but also symbolically distance leaders from citizens. (Every Indian toll booth announces that the top officers of the national government can drive through for free.)

Meanwhile, independent democratic nations are currently tolerating enormous gaps between the average income and the highest salaries in their private sectors.

*The mean income in India is $2,016. I find that number less meaningful, but Gandhi may have been using the mean in 1930.

See also defining equity and equality; the remarkable persistence of social advantage; why some forms of advantage are more stubborn than others; and notes from India

participatory action research in the City of God

Equipe Construindo Juntos (The Building Together Research Center) is based in Rio de Janeiro’s City of God neighborhood, made world-famous by the 2002 film. One of the key team members is my Tufts colleague Anjuli Fahlberg, a sociologist. She works as a close colleague with Ricardo Fernandes, Mirian Andrade, Jacob Portela, and about 20 Research Assistants, all from the neighborhood.

Among their projects is an elaborate survey of residents from 989 City of God households. Characteristically, the study began with open-ended discussion groups that chose the questions. The data was collected by fifteen trained and paid residents. To summarize the findings for neighbors, the research team produced “3,000 colorful pamphlets,” made presentations at local nonprofits, and earned press coverage in the major Rio newspapers.

This is an exemplary case of Participatory Action Research. Tisch College is proud to support it.

See also Participatory Action Research as Civic Studies; and nonviolent civic work under conditions of extreme violence (also on Anjuli Fahlberg’s research).