I’ve written before about the lack of an academic discipline relevant to civics or citizenship. If there were such a discipline, it might adopt the following principles:
The ultimate purpose of studying politics is to decide what should be done. That requires understanding ethics, strategy, and empirical facts and their causes.
Human beings have political agency that is worth studying, despite the power of big institutions. What human beings should do is an important question, not just how institutions should be organized.
Notwithstanding the previous point, it is crucial to understand how institutions reward or discourage ethical participation. It is not helpful to exhort people to be good citizens if they face barriers or collective-action problems.
Politics is not just the interaction of people or organizations that have different interests. It is also the process by which opinions, values, interests, and identities are formed. In other words, values are not exogenous to politics; they emerge from politics.
Politics is not zero-sum. There is an important aspect of politics that is creative, that expands the store of public goods.
People begin as powerless and voiceless infants and develop into active citizens. Human beings are agents in their own development, but they also need appropriate opportunities to develop political skills and identities. The opportunities must come in an appropriate sequence.
To understand politics often requires direct experience and real-world experimentation, not just data and laboratory-type experiments.
Politics is not merely a cost; it can be an intrinsic good.