The “democratic engagement” faction within civics education has recently re-energized and is pressing hard on schools to push kids into activism. -- Chester Finn
|Finn (right) and his Fordham crew|
On the other side, we find much greater emphasis on civic participation and activism, on voluntarism and “service learning,” and on what is often termed “collective decision making” (or problem solving) and “democratic engagement,” which often boils down into the communitarian view that issues facing society are best dealt with through group action, by people joining hands and working together rather than through the political process.Worse yet, moans Finn, is the role of the Dept. of Education and Arne Duncan in promoting this "democratic engagement" faction and Duncan's use of the words, "action civics". I must have somehow missed all that. The last thing I remember about Duncan was his mad attempt to head off Matt Damon at the airport in D.C. last summer, to keep him from speaking at the national Save Our Schools March & Rally. That must have been before he joined the "democratic engagement" faction.
But what really has Finn's toga all in a knot, is "A Crucible Moment," a publication, written by D.O.E. higher-ups Martha Kantor and Eduardo Ochoa.While I admit, I only scanned the tract, it looks pretty good to me. Obviously, Finn is not me.
He is pissed that the D.O.E. awarded a contract to the Global Perspective Institute, Inc. (GPI) and a subcontract to the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) to lead a national dialogue that would result in recommendations about strengthening students’ civic learning and democratic engagement as a core component of college study. The result was the formation of a National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement headed by Larry Braskamp, who I remember as a progressive educator and decent guy from his days as dean at UIC's College of Education back in the early 90's.
Civics without action is an empty shell. Finn's attack on people for "joining hands and working together," shows how much disdain the ed-cons have for participatory democracy.