Monthly Archives: January 2019

insights from the k-12 civic education System Map

For CivXNow, we recently created a System Map of k-12 civics. Perhaps the greatest value of the map is that we didn’t decide what was on it or how things fit together. More than 7,500 people co-created it by answering survey questions. We didn’t ask them what strategy they favored but whether they thought that various specific factors influenced other specific factors, and we built a network from the results. More about the method and its rationale is here.

In this post, I would like to derive some substantive results from the map.

First, look at what is connected to two different possible outcomes of civic education: youth knowledge (on the left) and youth civic engagement (on the right). Almost the whole map has direct connections to knowledge; very little is connected to youth engagement. Of the causes of youth engagement, one is knowledge–which sends us back to the diagram on the left. Another cause is “schools are [generally] effective institutions,” which may seem beyond the power of the civic education community.

Overall, it appears that we have created much more of a “system” for generating youth knowledge than for empowering youth to act. To the extent that people are working on the latter goal, their efforts are not nearly as visible to our 7,500 respondents.

Second, compare two factors that have to do with the content and pedagogy of civics. On the left is whether civics addresses complex and current issues and controversies. On the right is whether teachers are able to present civics without bias and withstand a polarized political environment outside the classroom

Either goal may be very important. You might reasonably consider either (or both) to be your main concern. But the one on the left is highly leveraged, affecting many other outcomes. The one on the right has virtually no leverage at all. Our community doubts that if civics avoided problems of bias, then anything else would improve.

Third, take a look at funding. This was linked to more other factors than any other node on the map. I assume that is because it is relatively easy to envision that having more money would change a whole range of outcomes. We all know that money has value. (That’s why they call it “money.”)

The Role of Funding

But how would we get more money? This map rightly portrays funding as a “midstream” issue. Yes, money would help, but other factors–notably, including civics in accountability systems and making civic engagement more of a public priority–are what would yield more funding. The map suggests that even if money is an important means, it is likely not the best target for advocacy.

Now take a look at how people connected “Teachers are Well Prepared to Teach Civics” to other nodes. This is the factor that captures pre-service education, professional development, etc. Respondents did see it as a driver of more engaging pedagogy and of more current issue-discussions. But the ultimate outcome they expected was better knowledge, not more civic engagement.

How People View Professional Development

This could mean that most teacher education and PD presents student knowledge as the explicit goal, and engaging pedagogy as a means. Should it be otherwise?

Finally, let’s zoom in for greater detail. This is a screenshot from the version of the map that displays 75 components clustered into larger factors. I have highlighted the components that may reflect a concern with history and classic texts (often coded as conservative) and those that reflect a desire for students to take action (sometimes seen as progressive).

Components Involving Action Civics and Historical Texts

The point I would like to emphasize is that these goals are not in conflict. They light up different parts of the map. It’s possible to work on both goals at once.

The American Political Science Association Institute for Civically Engaged Research (ICER) at Tisch College this summer

June 17-22, 2019

Background and Purpose

Scholars in many disciplines are grappling with how to produce rigorous scholarship that addresses significant social challenges in collaboration with communities, organizations, and agencies. They strive to learn from non-academics, to benefit from the research capacity of all kinds of groups and institutions, and to give back to communities rather than extract value from them. Although political scientists offer models of excellence in civically engaged research, relevant methods and strategies are not yet widely taught in the discipline’s graduate programs or sufficiently valued in the profession as a whole. 

Therefore, the American Political Science Association (APSA) Council has authorized an annual APSA Institute for Civically Engaged Research (ICER) to begin in summer 2019. ICER is intended for advanced graduate students in political science and political scientists at any stage of their careers who wish to shift to using civically engaged research. It is not meant for scholars who are already experienced in that approach.

Content of the Institute 

The Institute will address topics such as: 

  • Expertise: what do political scientists contribute? What are the limitations of scholarly expertise? What expertise do others have?
  • The needs of scholars as compared to community groups or political actors. Tensions and ways of addressing them.
  • The ethics of collaboration: sharing of credit, funds and overhead, IRB issues, sharing results, dealing with disagreements.
  • Communicating results: to partners, communities, the press, directly to the broad public. Dealing with controversy.
  • How to define and honor values of like neutrality, objectivity, and rigor.
  • Career issues:  publication and credit, tenure and promotion, fundraising.
  • Mapping the different and varied ways that political scientists engage.

We will explore these issues by discussing relevant readings, by analyzing specific examples of civically engaged political science research, and by considering the research plans and ideas of the participants in the Institute.

The Institute will take place on the campus of Tufts University, in the Boston area, from June 17-22, 2019. Approximately twenty participants will meet each day from June 17-20 for intensive discussions. Participants are expected to attend the Frontiers of Democracy conference with approximately 120 other scholars and practitioners from the evening of June 20 until noon on June 22 in downtown Boston.

How to Apply

Thanks to support from the APSA, participation in the Institute and the conference is free, and scholarships are available to defray costs of travel, food, and housing in dormitories on the Tufts campus. Applicants are expected to seek financial support from their home institution, but admission to the Institute for Civically Engaged Research will not be affected by financial need.

To apply, please complete this form. It will ask for 1) your name, your institution, and program of study or current employment; 2) your reasons for interest in the Institute; 3) your background in political science research and in civically engaged research; 4) your areas of special research interest; and 5) your demographics. You are also asked to upload your CV and your unofficial academic transcript if you are a current graduate student or earned a PhD within the last five years.


Confirmed speakers and visitors include: Valeria Sinclair Chapman (Purdue), Archon Fung (Harvard), Taeku Lee (Berkeley), Robert Lieberman (Johns Hopkins), Jamila Michener (Cornell), Amy Cabrera Rasmussen (Cal State-Long Beach), Pearl Robinson (Tufts), and Rogers Smith (University of Pennsylvania). 

Also involved with the Institute are: Amanda Grigg (APSA) and Hahrie Han (University of California Santa Barbara)

The organizer and Principal Investigator on the project is Peter Levine (Tufts’ Tisch College of Civic Life and Department of Political Science). 

Related Opportunities 

  • The 11th annual Summer Institute of Civic Studies will take place at Tufts’ Tisch College of Civic Life from June 23-28, 2019, following ICER. It is highly interdisciplinary and focused on a set of readings about how people work together to improve the world, how people reason together about what is right to do, and what practices and institutional structures promote these kinds of citizenship. Applications are due on March 30, 2019.
  • The Center on Democracy and Organizing (CDO) is seeking applications from advanced Ph.D. students and early career researchers and organizers for participation in an interdisciplinary institute focused on the study of democracy and organizing. This institute will be held from July 31 to August 2 at the University of California, Berkeley. Political scientists are encouraged to apply. The organizers of the APSA/Tufts Institute and the CDO institute will ensure that the content does not overlap substantially. 
  • The fifth annual European Institute of Civic Studies will take place in Herrsching, near Munich, Germany, from July 14-27, 2019. It is open to graduate students and scholars in any discipline who are citizens of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Poland, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, or Uzbekistan. To apply, send a letter of interest, a curriculum vitae, and an academic transcript (if applicable) to Prof. Kloubert at by March 15, 2019, for best consideration
  • Postdoctoral Fellowships at Tisch College:
  1. Tufts University will award a Post-Doctoral Fellowship to a scholar with expertise in American political behavior and survey data analysis for the 2019-20 academic year. The Fellowship is partly funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation and will be awarded to a scholar with a Ph.D. in Political Science or a related discipline with research interests that intersect with the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES). Applicants should have completed the requirements for their Ph.D. by the time of appointment, which is planned for August 1, 2019. The post-doc will be located at Tufts University in the Department of Political Science and in the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. More information and application materials are here.
  2. Tisch College will award a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Civic Science for the 2019-20 academic year (June 1, 2019 to May 31, 2020). This postdoctoral fellowship is offered in partnership with the Charles F. Kettering Foundation in Dayton, OH, and involves some work at Kettering’s offices in Dayton as well as full-time employment at Tufts in the Boston area. The Tisch College Civic Science initiative, led by Dr. Jonathan Garlick, aims to reframe how key participants—scientists, the public, the media, institutions of higher education, and other stakeholders engage the national dialogue about science issues. Civic Science is interdisciplinary, and this fellowship is open to a PhD in any relevant field. The Fellow will conduct research related to Civic Science, both independently and in collaboration with Prof. Garlick and the Kettering Foundation. He or she will teach one course to undergraduates in the Civic Studies Major. The Fellow will attend orientation and research meetings at the Kettering Foundation as requested. More information and application materials are here.

Both Postdoctoral Fellows will attend and participate in the Summer Institute of Civic Studies at Tisch College.

Brag, Cave and Crow: a contribution to game theory

Game theory models interactions by presenting the “players” as people (or organizations) who face choices, and the outcome as the result of how they each choose. In conflictual circumstances, the players can choose between the option that their opponent would prefer (cooperate) or the one that their opponent would not prefer (defect). In certain unpleasant circumstances, such as the Prisoner’s Dilemma, every player is better off defecting even though that outcome is worst for all.

Donald Trump has faced a set of conflictual games as president, with North Korea, Mexico and Canada, China, and Chuck & Nancy (among others) on the opposite side of the table. He has frequently applied the novel strategy of Brag, Cave, and Crow (Trump, DJ et al. 2019). It works like this: First declare very loudly that you will defect and the other side will be forced to cooperate, then cooperate, and then declare very loudly that the other side was the one that cooperated.

This is not as dumb as it sounds.

First, assume that you can convince yourself that you did win. Payers seek to achieve their own preferences or maximize their own satisfaction. If you talk yourself into the idea that you won even though someone might see you as having folded, your subjective feelings are fine. That’s a win. Meanwhile, the conflict is gone and does you no more damage.

Second, if you are Donald Trump, you are always more interested in another game, a popularity contest. You are appealing to an audience of consumers or voters. Insofar as you can persuade them that you won even though you folded, you do win what you wanted most. And in a world of echo chambers and partisan heuristics, often this is exactly what happens. For instance, settle for the substance of NAFTA with minor tweaks, but rename it with an acronym that has “US … A” in it, and you can Brag, Cave, and Crow (BCC) for the win.

In the immediate circumstances, it’s good that BCC pays off for Donald Trump. It’s much better that he should brag about having solved the North Korean nuclear standoff than convince himself that he must actually force North Korea to denuclearize. Likewise, if he can claim he built a wall on the southern border when he didn’t, that will save us all some money, preserve the Constitution, offend Mexico less than a physical wall would, and leave nature and landowners alone.

At this juncture, Trump’s choice is either to Crow or to go back to the Brag stage. In other words, he can declare that he won or else threaten to win in the future with a veto or a declaration of emergency. I don’t think he can both Brag and Crow at the same moment about the same thing, although the echo chamber may be hermetic enough to allow that to work to some degree.

Alas, the incentive to BCC is yet another blow to responsible and accountable governance and public deliberation.

See also game theory and the shutdown; the emperor’s new wall; and why learn game theory?

a public university as civic anchor

I’ve been at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, subjecting a substantial group of faculty to not one, but two, keynote talks during their professional development conference just before their semester starts.

In the first talk, I drew a link between the decline of everyday civic life and the poor state of American politics. As I noted, this is a nonpartisan framing and one that somewhat bypasses highly contested issues, such as race and class. In other contexts, I endorse more partisan and divisive diagnoses. In fact, the last time I was in Wisconsin, it was to talk to an #Indivisible group, and that meeting found its way into a Washington Post story about “turn[ing] Wisconsin back to blue.” But I also believe in the framing I gave today, and it has two major advantages for a public university. It is relatively neutral about the kinds of issues about which students and other citizens disagree, and it assigns a significant role to the university itself, as a community anchor that can support the everyday civic work of deliberation, collaboration, and forming civic relationships.

Here is the Prezi for that talk:

The second talk was about the intellectual work we need in classrooms and research programs. Just as citizens must ask “What should we do?”, so scholars should study and teach that question. But it tends to slip between the tessellation of our academic disciplines, which focus more on how and why things happen, what opinions we should form, what governments should do, or what constitutes justice. What we should actually do is constantly sidestepped.

Remedying that problem is the impetus behind Civic Studies, a small but international movement with a space in the Tufts curriculum as a major. UW Green Bay already offers a remarkable array of interdisciplinary degree programs. But those might take some inspiration and insights from the content of Civic Studies.

Here is the Prezi for that one:

Tisch College Postdoc in Civic Science

Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life will award a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Civic Science for the 2019-20 academic year (June 1, 2019-May 31, 2020). This postdoctoral fellowship is offered in partnership with the Charles F. Kettering Foundation in Dayton, OH and involves some work at Kettering’s offices in Dayton as well as full-time employment at Tufts in the Boston area.

The Tisch College Civic Science Initiative, led by Dr. Jonathan Garlick, aims to reframe how key participants—scientists, the public, the media, institutions of higher education, and other stakeholders—can engage the national dialogue by:

  • Redefining the role of higher education in promoting science for the public good, by teaching skills that can transform science-based information into actionable civic knowledge
  • Redefining the role of the scientist in society by training scientists to implement a participatory approach that fosters an understanding of science as relevant and accessible
  • Redefining the national conversation on divisive and complex scientific issues to create a more inclusive exchange of ideas through dialogue that connects evidence-based science to our values, beliefs, and choices.
  • Developing courses and pedagogies designed to build civic capacities on complex and controversial science-based issues of societal consequence.
  • Civic Science is interdisciplinary, and this fellowship is open to a PhD in any relevant field.

The Postdoctoral Fellow will attend and participate in the Summer Institute of Civic Studies at Tisch College from June 20-28, 2019. He or she will conduct research related to Civic Science, both independently and in collaboration with Prof. Garlick and the Kettering Foundation. He or she will teach one course to undergraduates in the Civic Studies Major. The Fellow will attend orientation and research meetings at the Kettering Foundation as requested.

A scholar with a Ph.D. in any relevant discipline who is not yet tenured.

Application Instructions
Applications should include:

(1) a cover letter which includes a description of your research goals during the fellowship year and the courses you would like to offer;

(2) your CV;

(3) one writing sample;

(4) three letters of recommendation which should be uploaded by your recommenders to Interfolio directly; and

(5) teaching course evaluations, if available.

February 1, 2018 and will continue until the position is filled

Questions about the position should be addressed to Tisch College Academic Dean at

Non-Discrimination Statement

Our institution does not discriminate against job candidates on the basis of actual or perceived gender, gender identity, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, or religion.

Tufts University, founded in 1852, prioritizes quality teaching, highly competitive basic and applied research and a commitment to active citizenship locally, regionally and globally. Tufts University also prides itself on creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community. Current and prospective employees of the university are expected to have and continuously develop skill in, and disposition for, positively engaging with a diverse population of faculty, staff, and students. Tufts University is an Equal Opportunity/ Affirmative Action Employer. We are committed to increasing the diversity of our faculty and staff and fostering their success when hired. Members of underrepresented groups are welcome and strongly encouraged to apply. If you are an applicant with a disability who is unable to use our online tools to search and apply for jobs, please contact us by calling Johny Laine in the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) at 617.627.3298 or at Applicants can learn more about requesting reasonable accommodations at

See also: Cooperative Congressional Election Study and Tisch College of Civic Life: Postdoctoral Fellowship