[December 5] The Fate of Civic Education in a Connected World
Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University
A “Fred Friendly” Seminar
Monday, December 5, 6:00 pm
Austin East Classroom, Austin Hall, Harvard Law School
Free and Open to the Public; RSVP required for those attending in person via the form below
Featuring Professor Charles Nesson as Provocateur and Ellen Condliffe Lagemann (Bard College), Peter Levine (Tufts University), Harry Lewis (Harvard SEAS), Elizabeth Lynn (Project on Civic Reflection) and Juan Carlos de Martin (Berkman Center) as participants.
Civic education is the cultivation of knowledge and traits that sustain democratic self-governance. The broad agreement that civic education is important disintegrates under close scrutiny. As the social networks of individuals become less based on geography and more based on friendships and common interests, consensus on shared civic values seems harder to achieve. American education is under stress at every level, and schools and colleges must re-imagine their commitment to civic education. This seminar will probe tensions that make civic education difficult, for example:
* What’s the problem? Doesn’t everyone agree that civic education is important? Is civic education being squeezed out in schools, either because of the demands of subject testing or the desire to avoid political controversy?
* Does the connectedness of social media support or impair the sorts of connections that lead to active citizenship?
* Every tertiary institution wants to be a “global university.” What, if any, are the civic responsibilities of a global institution? What civic values are transnational? Should American students learn the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
* What about civic education outside of school–for adults, prisoners, and the home-schooled, for example?
* Then there was model UN; now there are online simulations. Do they achieve the same ends?
* Does civic education include instruction in civic activism, using social media for example?
* With connectedness come instantaneity and constant interruptions. Is it even possible to maintain anyone’s attention on understanding anything as subtle as the complexities of representative government?
This lively, “Fred Friendly” style seminar is timed to coincide with publication of two edited volumes: Teaching America: The Case for Civic Education (David Feith, ed.; Rowman & Littlefield), and What is College For?: The Public Purpose of Higher Education (Ellen Condliffe Lagemann and Harry Lewis, eds.)
Most Berkman events are webcast live here: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/interactive/webcast