Politics by Other Means: Civic Education in a Time of Controversy

Newly published: Levine, P. (2023). Politics by Other Means: Civic Education in a Time of Controversy. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science705(1), 24-38. https://doi.org/10.1177/00027162231189037. Abstract:

After being overlooked in major education debates and policy initiatives for decades, civic education has recently become the topic of highly polarized debates and legislative battles over what and how we should be teaching our young people about the nation’s history. How should racial injustice be discussed in schools? Are schools indoctrinating students? In a robust democracy, controversy about what students should learn is appropriate and desirable, but some of the rhetoric that has dominated the recent discussions violates the deliberative norms that schools should help students to develop. At a time when the public should be carefully deliberating how to educate students, civic education is instead being used instrumentally to win political contests. I present one approach to facing this challenge—the Educating for American Democracy project. This project is not the conclusive answer to the question, “What should we teach?” but rather an attempt to model deliberative values, and I show that it offers important lessons for people and institutions who are attempting to address matters of curricular content.

This article is part of a special issue on Civic Education in a Time of Democratic Crisis and is specifically paired with Paul Carrese’s piece, “Civic Preparation of American Youth: Reflective Patriotism and Our Constitutional Democracy,” under the heading “Finding Common Ground among Progressive and Conservative Visions of Civic Education.” My friend Paul and I represent those two visions, and we discuss the common ground that we and others found.