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ERIC Number: ED539344
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 36
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-0-9239-9335-1
The Civic Spectrum: How Students become Engaged Citizens
Ronan, Bernie
Kettering Foundation
Bernie Ronan's "The Civic Spectrum: How Students Become Engaged Citizens" comes at a critical time in the effort to strengthen the role of higher education in a democracy. In the last 20 years, higher education institutions have begun to pay a great deal of attention to the civic engagement of college students. By now, nearly every campus around the country has an office or program devoted to service learning, community partnerships, and related activities. A key issue in the sense of impasse in higher education is the lack of consensus over whether and how civic engagement efforts should be directed toward outcomes that can be considered "political." Higher education institutions are hesitant to understand their work as political, for fear of compromising the strict neutrality that many believe is required by their academic mission. Furthermore, even though students may want to work through and improve the political system, they are often more inclined to make a difference at an individual level due to their frustration with a system that they see as distant or inflexible. Ronan's "spectrum" approach to civic learning offers an ingenious conceptual (and strategic) solution to this problem. To address the challenge, Ronan develops a framework with three distinct dimensions of civic learning--"head," the faculties of judgment and deliberation; "heart," the ability to identify with others; and "hands," the capacity for action. In large-scale and complex societies, Ronan argues, these skills cannot be developed "ex nihilo." Rather, each of these dimensions must be conceived as a continuum, allowing students to gradually develop the skills they need to flourish as citizens of political communities. This framework provides a meaningful place for all forms of civic engagement, including those that begin from apolitical perspectives and motivations. Ronan genuinely values these forms of civic engagement as developmentally necessary for students who have not yet had to confront the difficulties of political communities. (Contains 3 figures and 103 notes.)
Kettering Foundation. 200 Commons Road, Dayton, OH 45459. Tel: 937-434-7300; Fax: 937-439-9804; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Kettering Foundation