BY CARL L. BANKSTON III
“Engagement” is one of the popular buzz words in higher education these days. According to an article (1) in Inside Higher Education, the National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement has issued a new report, prompted by the Department of Education as a part of “a push to make democratic engagement a national goal.” I had always thought that in a free society people could choose their own goals. Apparently, this is not the view of the task force or the Department of Education.
I believe the report confuses two very different forms of education. One of these we might call civic studies, which would entail learning about competing political philosophies, the history of government in general and of American government in particular, and current political structure and political process. This type of education pushes no position and involves no proselytizing. It simply provides citizens with the information to make up their own minds and decide whether and how they will be involved in public issues. The other form of education we might call civic engagement learning, which involves preaching the socio-political values approved by the institution and recruiting students for social crusades through mandatory “public service.” This second approach is not only inconsistent with the traditional approach to liberal education, it is inconsistent with liberal democracy.
The Moral Liberal Sociology Editor, Carl L. Bankston III is Professor of Sociology at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. He is the author and co-author of a number of books and numerous articles published in academic journals. An incomplete list of his books includes: Growing Up American: How Vietnamese Children Adapt to Life in the United States (with Min Zhou, 1998), Blue Collar Bayou: Louisiana Cajuns in the New Economy of Ethnicity (with Jacques Henry, 2002), and A Troubled Dream: The Promise and Failure of School Desegregation in Louisiana (2002), Forced to Fail: The Paradox of School Desegregation (hardback, 2005; paperback, 2007), and Public Education – America’s Civil Religion: A Social History (2009) (all with Stephen J. Caldas). View Professor Bankston’s full bio, here. He blogs at Can These Bones Live?
Copyright © 2011 Carl L. Bankston III.