4 thoughts on “Citizen Crazed: Civic Derangement and the NAS Attack on Academic Freedom

  1. Wow! NAS has really gone off the deep end this time. Thanks for this post, John. For anyone doubting the totally unfounded nature of the NAS attack, just Google “civics education” as I just did. You will find little to no evidence of this vast leftist conspiracy and much earnest, if sometimes anodyne, effort to improve student knowledge of civics. See these examples:

    The Center for Civic Education: http://www.civiced.org/

    The Civics Education Initiative: http://civicseducationinitiative.org/

    The NEA’s page on civics education: http://www.nea.org/civicseducation

    Moreover, on November 10, right after the election, The Century Foundation issued its own report on “Putting Democracy Back into Public Education,” which focused on civics in K-12 schools. I can’t agree with everything in it, but its thoughtful approach stands in sharp contrast to the hysterical conspiracy-mongering of NAS. They actually call for defining a “robust set of outcomes: Do graduates of a school vote, volunteer, and get involved in democratic activities, such as public service and political campaigns? A democracy cannot thrive without active citizens, so just as there is a push to link schools to wage outcomes, so too, we should find creative ways to track post-high school civic participation.” For NAS that approach somehow smacks of a dystopian nightmare. Oh, the horror of it all!

    The report is here: https://tcf.org/content/report/putting-democracy-back-public-education/

  2. I thank Mr. Wilson for taking the time to look at my report–although I think a longer look would have produced more accurate paraphrase.I encourage the readers of this blog to take a look at the report.– and to look at the writings of the service-learning and civic engagement movements (the New Civics), whom I quote at length. I believe they justify my judgment of the New Civics advocates radical left aims, and of their remarkable success in achieving them. I take the advocates of the New Civics and myself to be describing the same educational-bureaucratic complex; but my judgment of what they are doing is not as sunny as theirs.

    I do hope that Mr. Wilson will engage in a more scholarly use of “alt-right” in the future. I take it that he regards the NAS as doubleplusungood, and alt-right as doubleplusungood, and therefore the NAS is alt-right. There is a fault in the syllogism.

    I also hope that Mr. Wilson will distinguish more carefully between “freedom to speak” and “subsidy for political activism.” These are not identical–although the beneficiaries of these subsidies would like to conflate the two. A university should always have the former, but never the latter.

    I (and the National Association of Scholars) welcome further discussion of this very important issue.

    • I think I would like to take up your challenge and create in actuality what you pretend, David Randell, already exists–that is, this New Civics. As any college professor would, I want to base it on what students learn in high school–and that, as you point out, isn’t much. But you can’t blame us college professors for that.

      The New Civics that you describe is not a replacement, though, for any sort of old civics courses (which existed in high schools, not generally in colleges). It is an augmentation. The problem you describe (in what I have read so far) is not that this supposed New Civics wants to push aside the old but that the old it is trying to strengthen has pretty much disappeared.

      What my New Civics would do is reach back and start in the place high schools have emptied, with instruction on the structures of our democracy. Civic duties, of course, run far beyond simple participation in written-out duties such as voting, juries and whatnot (a point you seem to elide). It leads to a healthy advocacy of the rights of man and woman (read Madison, read Paine). Dewey and Freire are good 20th-century starting points for that (thank you, though I knew it already), for teaching students that the spirit of the country goes far beyond the letter. After all, as Second Corinthians tells us, “the letter killeth but the spirit giveth life.”

  3. Pingback: Embracing the “New Civics” | ACADEME BLOG

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