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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

‘New Civics’ or left-wing activism? 

What colleges call “the New Civics” is really “progressive political activism,” charges a National Association of Scholars report, Making Citizens: How American Universities Teach Civics.

“Service learning,” rebranded as “civic engagement,” teaches that “a good citizen is a radical activist,” charges David Randall, the report’s author. It’s pushing academic learning aside.

He discusses the New Civics on Bridging Differences.

Students learn little about “the structure and ideals of American government” or “basics about her history, and citizenship duties such as military service, voting, and jury duty,” writes Joy Pullman on The Federalist.

A series of surveys of adult Americans from 2008 to 2011 found that college graduates tended to know less than the average American about basic government functions, although the average American failed the test with or without a college degree. “[W]hile college adds little to civic knowledge, it does seem to encourage graduates to identify more strongly with the Democrat and Liberal ends of the political spectrum,” one of these reports found.

The report recommends “a coordinated civic literacy curriculum at the high school and college levels, a required course in traditional American civics, and a mandate that the traditional civics requirement be met only through classroom instruction,” writes The College Fix.

Such recommendations pose “a severe threat to academic freedom because government officials would be imposing their judgments on college campuses rather than allowing universities to do what they think is best,” author and co-editor of Academe blog, John Wilson, told The College Fix via email.

Forming virtuous citizens isn’t academia’s job, writes Stanley Fish in the Chronicle of Higher Education. “Fostering intellectual freedom? Yes! Search for truth? Yes! Promotion of virtuous citizenship? No! Promoting virtuous citizenship is no doubt a worthy goal, but it is not an academic goal, because, like the programs the report derides, it is a political goal.”

In 2004, William Felker was kicked out of the graduate social work program at Rhode Island College because his internship didn’t “advance social change,” as required. Instead, he volunteered for the Republican governor, writes George Leef in Forbes.

Nearly eight years later after Felker sued the college, his suit was dismissed.

Educating for citizenship requires more than civic engagement, write Michael B. Smith, Rebecca S. Nowacek, and Jeffrey L. Bernstein. It also “embodies more abstract qualities: learning how to become more comfortable with ambiguity and complexity, how to disagree without being disagreeable, and, perhaps above all else, how to be more empathetic.”

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