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02 Nov Posted by in Academics | Comments Off on Civics

As we variously ponder the election results, and rejoice that at least another election season and its advertisements have passed, it may be useful to ponder briefly a university role in civics education.

George Mason University actually has a surprising number of faculty members interested in civics. Several have authored civics materials for use in the schools (a welcome departure from the more common practice of simply having commercial publishers cobble something together). Several are studying the state of civics education or actively working with school programs on issues like redistricting. So we’re in a good position to sponsor some of coordinated discussions of civics issues.

A key challenge, obviously, is the fact that civics, as a subject, is fairly unique in the academic category as operating at the school level without having a clear college counterpart. It is hard to imagine, for example, an AP civics operation at the high school level because there would be no clear college counterpart for which credit might be offered.

As we contemplate, at Mason, a more intentional effort in this area, we are actually thinking about trying to set up a college-level course, which might among other things be offered as an option in the schools, through distance or summer programs. The goal would be to attract more interested students into some higher-level analysis, beyond the let’s- memorize-our-court-system approach of much civics training. And there could be some hope that certain results might translate back into more general civics training.

We do face an odd phenomenon. There’s general recognition that civics knowledge is not as extensive as might be wished. There’s considerable recognition, as well, that traditional civics approaches have not been very inspiring. There is room for a more concerted, university-level endeavor, in appropriate contact with K-12 curricula and teachers, and of course with potential impact as well on teacher training in the social studies. We’ll see what we can come up with.