In this video, I offer a very broad introduction to civic education in the USA–framing my remarks historically. Essentially, I trace a tradition of experiential, community-based civic learning that runs from de Tocqueville through Jane Addams to Dorothy Cotton and onward; and a tradition of studying civics in school that really takes off with Horace Mann. These two traditions intertwine, and John Dewey is an important bridge between them. I argue that neither is in very good condition today.
Then Bettina Heinrich, from the Protestant University of Applied Sciences Ludwigsburg, gives an overview of “politische Bildung” (political education or development) in the Federal Republic of Germany, focusing on the post-War period. We both note significant mutual influence between these two countries.
Another event will follow this one:
“Growing Up Across the Pond” (May 3, noon US Eastern Time) will be more about the general context for youth in Germany and the USA today. (You can register here.)
These are both open events, meant for anyone who is interested. They are also introductory events for people who might want to join The Transatlantic Exchange of Civic Educators (TECE), which “will bring together German and U.S.-American extracurricular civic learning professionals to unlock opportunities for mutual learning and reintroduce a transatlantic dimension to the field.”
This is the video from a recent event sponsored by Tufts Global Education and the Fletcher Global One Health Diplomacy Initiative. Susan Sánchez-Casal organized and introduced the event. I moderated and posed the questions. The experts were Karsten Noko, a lawyer & humanitarian aid practitioner originally from Zimbabwe, and Josep Lobera, a sociology professor at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid & Tufts in Madrid.
In the Global South, billions of people are not going to be vaccinated any time soon because of a shortage of vaccines in their countries. A realistic timetable is 2024. Meanwhile, millions of people in the Global North are going to refuse to be vaccinated because of skepticism and distrust, which is partly caused by elites’ use of weaponized misinformation.
The speakers also explored nuances–including vaccine shortages in the North and hesitancy and misinformation in the South.
Here is a recording of “The Promise of Civic Renewal to Revive our Democracy” on Dec. 10, 2020. It was the final event in the “Let’s Talk about Our Democracy” series, hosted by Mass Humanities. I talked with Program Officer Jennifer Hall-Witt about reviving our democracy, focusing on the role that ordinary citizens can play in fostering more deliberative, collaborative, and engaged communities. This conversation was based on We Are the Ones We have been Waiting For: The Promise of Civic Renewal in America, but we discussed ways in which the situation and my views have changed since that 2013 book.
(Incidentally, I will deliver the final manuscript of my next book, What Should We Do? at the end of this month. It is meant to complement, not replace, We Are the Ones–adopting a more theoretical and global perspective, whereas We Are the One applies the framework specifically to the USA in our time. But that means that the specific strategies of We Are the Ones need to evolve.)
This is a video of Robert D. Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett discussing their new book, The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again in a Tisch College Distinguished Speaker event last night. Our dean, Alan Solomont, introduced everyone and then I interviewed and moderated Putnam and Garrett.
I really do recommend the book and intend to write about it in more detail. It’s methodologically and conceptually interesting. More importantly, it’s a hopeful and patriotic book that comes at an urgent moment.
During our conversation, I proposed a summary of the book’s position that the authors seemed willing to accept. They advocate an appropriate balance between individualism and communitarianism. They believe that a society can be too communitarian, and perhaps that was even true of the US ca. 1960. But now we are far too individualistic. The balance can be restored, as it was in the half-century after 1900. To accomplish that change requires a decentralized and pluralistic effort that encompasses social innovation and social entrepreneurship, organizing and advocacy, cultural work, leadership, and policy changes at all levels of government. This effort should be pragmatic, not ideological, although it can attract people with a mix of ideological views and agendas who overlap on the idea that America should be more of a “we” and less of an “I” society.
An excellent example was the “high school revolution,” a decentralized movement that raised the proportion of Americans who completed high school from less than 10% to more than 70% in a few decades, fueling economic growth and equity. No single law accomplished this revolution; no individual is especially associated with it. It was a “viral” movement that, in turn, contributed to a much broader movement to strengthen American community. I’m guessing that various agendas converged to make this happen, from local boosterism and immigrant assimilationism to ambitious reform agendas, including socialism.
The implication is that we can do the same again, and it might even turn out that leaders as disparate as Barack Obama, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Patrisse Cullors, and Mike Lee–plus countless founders of nonprofits and community organizers–will turn out to be early participants in a new upswing. We certainly need it.
This is the audio of my friend Andrew Seligsohn, the President of Campus Compact, interviewing me earlier this week about the election, what it tells us about civic life, and what we should do next. I enjoyed it and appreciated the opportunity. Follow Campus Compact for other #CompactNation podcasts.