Civic Identity And Education In A Multicultural Context

Institution(s): Harvard

Discipline(s): Education

Faculty Member(s): Meira Levinson

Keyword(s): Citizenship, Civic Engagement, Democracy, Social Justice, Youth

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What makes someone a good citizen in a diverse democracy? Do good citizens: vote; protest; recite how a bill becomes a law; tolerate intolerance; work hard to support their families; feel patriotic; lead revolutions; run for political office; fight the power; join the army; volunteer; blog; all or none of the above? How should schools answer this question, and what are the implications of the answers they give? What empirical evidence is there for schools’ abilities to take on these issues? And how do individuals’ ethnoracial, cultural, religious, and gendered identities fit into the theory and practice of civic education in a diverse society? This course will address these and related issues through readings in political philosophy, political science, sociology, history, and psychology. We will also examine contemporary educational practices and resources such as state standards, after school and community programs, and civics textbooks. Topics to be covered include the contested aims of civic education; the civic empowerment gap; how education affects the quantity, quality, and equality of civic engagement; immigrant incorporation; African American traditions of civic education; patriotic education; identity formation; and civic and multicultural education for social transformation. Students will be encouraged to explore their own interests throughout the course by means of seminar leadership, two short papers, and a final project. All students will be encouraged to hone their analytic reading, discussion, and writing skills; these will be scaffolded throughout the semester in a respectful, supportive, and democratic context.