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ERIC Number: ED572047
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2017-Jan
Pages: 525
Abstractor: As Provided
Making Citizens: How American Universities Teach Civics. With Case Studies of the University of Colorado, Boulder; Colorado State University; University of Northern Colorado; and the University of Wyoming
Randall, David
National Association of Scholars
A new movement in American higher education aims to transform the teaching of civics. This report is a study of what that movement is, where it came from, and why Americans should be concerned. What we call the "New Civics" redefines civics as progressive political activism. Rooted in the radical program of the 1960s' New Left, the New Civics presents itself as an up-to-date version of volunteerism and good works. Though camouflaged with soft rhetoric, the New Civics, properly understood, is an effort to repurpose higher education. The New Civics seeks above all to make students into enthusiastic supporters of the New Left's dream of "fundamentally transforming" America. The transformation includes de-carbonizing the economy, massively redistributing wealth, intensifying identity group grievance, curtailing the free market, expanding government bureaucracy, elevating international "norms" over American Constitutional law, and disparaging our common history and ideals. New Civics advocates argue among themselves which of these transformations should take precedence, but they agree that America must be transformed by "systemic change" from an unjust, oppressive society to a society that embodies social justice. The New Civics hopes to accomplish this by teaching students that a good citizen is a radical activist, and it puts political activism at the center of everything that students do in college, including academic study, extra-curricular pursuits, and off-campus ventures. New Civics builds on "service-learning," which is an effort to divert students from the classroom to vocational training as community activists. By rebranding itself as "civic engagement," service-learning succeeded in capturing nearly all the funding that formerly supported the old civics. In practice this means that instead of teaching college students the foundations of law, liberty, and self-government, colleges teach students how to organize protests, occupy buildings, and stage demonstrations. These are indeed forms of "civic engagement," but they are far from being a genuine substitute for learning how to be a full participant in our republic. New Civics has still further ambitions. Its proponents want to build it into every college class regardless of subject. The effort continues without so far drawing much critical attention from the public. This report aims to change that. In addition to our history of the New Civics movement and its breakthrough moment when it was endorsed by President Obama, we provide case studies of four universities: the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU-Boulder), Colorado State University in Fort Collins (CSU), the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley (UNC), and the University of Wyoming in Laramie (UW). We make four recommendations to state legislators across the country: (1) Mandate a course in traditional American civics as a graduation requirement at all colleges and universities that receive public funding. If the institution itself is unwilling or unable to offer such a course, students must be permitted without penalty to meet the requirement by taking a qualified civics course at another institution; (2) Establish a public body to set the guidelines for the required civics course, which should at a minimum teach the history, nature, and functions of our institutions of self-government, and which should aim to foster commitment to our form of self-government. The public body should also be charged with reviewing and approving civics textbooks to be used in these courses; (3) Require that the traditional civics requirement be met only through classroom instruction. Service learning, civic engagement, or analogous extra-curricular activities will not be accepted as a substitute, supplement, or alternative; and (4) End funding for service-learning and civic engagement programs and bureaucracies. The following are appended: (1) The New Civics Infrastructure; (2) Sample Civics Syllabi; (3) Civic Literacy; (4) Alternate Civic Activity and Community Partners; (5) Glossary; (6) University of Colorado, Boulder; (7) Colorado State University; (8) University of Northern Colorado; and (9) University of Wyoming. Contains an index. [Contributions to this report were provided by Ashley Thorne. The Anschutz Foundation provided major support for the making of "Making Citizens."]
National Association of Scholars. 221 Witherspoon Street 2nd Floor, Princeton, NJ 08542-3215. Tel: 609-683-7878; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Daniels Fund
Authoring Institution: National Association of Scholars (NAS)
Identifiers - Location: Wyoming; Colorado