In this turbulent and dynamic century, our nation’s diverse democracy and interdependent global community require a more informed, engaged, and socially responsible citizenry. Both educators and employers agree that personal and social responsibility should be core elements of a 21st century education if our world is to thrive. Currently such learning is optional for some students rather than expected of all. A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future (2012) describes what a civic-minded institution looks like, how campuses can advance this vision across domains, and what pathways have already been forged by pioneering campuses. Civic Prompts (2015) shows how every discipline can do its part.
Under the National Endowment for the Humanities initiative, The Common Good: Humanities in the Public Square, The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and The Democracy Commitment (TDC) received one of the 21 grants awarded in 2016 to illuminate the critical and too little used role of humanities in helping the public have a fuller understanding of some of the most vexing issues in our national life. Under the common theme, Citizenship Under Siege, the seven participating community colleges are exploring in their local contexts what it means to experience citizenship as partial, denied, or fully acknowledged. Participating colleges presented free webinars designed to expand campus expertise on how to hold constructive conversations about contentious issues and how to institute practices in and out of the classroom that foster engagement across differences. More on the webinars and links to the archived presentations and resources can be found here.
Civic innovations include, community-based service and research, civic pedagogies and collective civic problem-solving, global learning focused on real-world challenges, diversity programs that promote learning across differences, integration of student and academic affairs, and advancing collaborative, generative partnerships that teach students how systems work and can be changed. The American Political Science Association offers a pioneering disciplinary model with its volume, Teaching Civic Engagement: From Student to Active Citizen.
Democratic engagement also requires students’ political participation, LearnEngageVote shares resources for voter registration and participation. Through projects, publications, and collaborations, AAC&U builds national awareness of civic learning and social responsibility so essential for life, work, and citizenship.