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Dubnick 2003B

Dubnick 2003B

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explore their common focus on “thosefactors in the lives of children—in theirfamilies, peer groups, schools, and com-munities—that promote (or retard) feel-ings of membership and the develop-ment of a ‘civic ethic’among youngpeople.” More specifically, the meetingwas intended to forge working linkagesamong political scientists and develop-mental psychologists with the goal of targeting research and practice thatwould enhance the quality and effective-ness of civic education and engagement.Historically, this is no mean feat. Theemergence of developmentalism as adominant educational philosophy overthe past century posed a fundamentalchallenge to civic education projects thatwere central to the mission of the politi-cal science profession from its organiza-tional birth in 1903. Each was based oncontrary assumptions about the purposeand pedagogies of education, and theidea that they could eventually bemelded to form a 21st-century approachto civic education would seem to somea well-intentioned exercise in fantasy.Civic education in America has itsroots in a “traditionalist” educationalphilosophy that took seriously the as-sumed pre-social and anti-social natureof the uneducated child. At worse, chil-dren were viewed as “barbarians at thegates of civilization” (R. S. Peters, citedin Carr 1998); at best, they were undis-ciplined and lazy beings who requiredhighly structured instruction in basicfacts and doctrines by the likes of Charles Dickens’infamous Mr. ThomasGradgrind. The task of civic educationwas equated with that of traditionalmoral education—to instill in childrenthose shared values that are central tothe moral community of citizens, and inthe process to inculcate those habits of character associated with being a goodcitizen. It was an educational agendabased on cultivating affection ratherthan cognition (Heater 2002). The pur-pose of civic education in the UnitedStates in the traditionalist mode—fromits initial form as part of religious cate-chisms in colonial America to its inte-gration into readings (e.g., McGuffey’sReaders), rituals (e.g., the daily Pledgeof Allegiance), and textbook narrativesof public school curricula—was to injectloyalty and patriotism into the processof preparing students for their roles insociety and the economy. In its moremoderate form, the traditionalist per-spective assumed that there was a spe-cific body of civic values and politicalknowledge required for citizenship, anda part of the school curriculum neededto be set aside for relevant and explicitinstruction on those matters.Such an approach was anathema tothe developmentalist philosophy of pro-gressivist education. From its roots inRousseau’s
to its articulation inthe works of Piaget and his followers(Carr 1998; Stone 1996), developmen-talism assumed a more positive view of childhood and children. For them, theidea of education through indoctrinationimplied by the traditionalist civic edu-cation agenda seemed the very defini-tion of miseducation. Based on the as-sumption that children are inherentlypredisposed to the moral treatment of others, the greatest danger of traditionalforms of education from the develop-mentalist perspective is the possiblecorruption of that natural goodness. Thetask of education is to nurture thosemoral—and civic—predispositionsrather than challenge their natural emer-gence through the imposition of artifi-cially conceived notions of civic life.This Roussauean perspective was rein-forced in the United States by Dewey’sinfluential views on democratic educa-tion that regarded schools as a placewhere children are taught “how tothink” rather than “what to think.” Thiswas, in turn, complemented by a strongliberal aversion to prescribed—orproscribed—curriculum content thatsmacked of xenophobic and racist doc-trines. The result, in theory if not al-ways in practice, was a negative viewof civic education and the eventual dis-appearance of courses explicitly devotedto “civics” from the standard K–12 cur-riculum. Much of this gained empiricalsupport from studies that, until recently(Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996; Niemi
Nurturing Civic Lives: Developmental Perspectiveson Civic Education—Introduction
Melvin J. Dubnick,
Rutgers University, Newark 
rom its inception in 1996 until itsquiet demise in 2002, the APSATask Force on Civic Education managed togenerate an array of “outputs.” Forgood or ill, there emerged no compre-hensive statement or grand strategy thatcan be pointed to as the group’s histori-cal legacy. This was due, in part to amoderate set of expectations informedby past experience (see Schachter 1998)and the existence of a number of activeprojects already energetically engaged inconfronting the issues of civic educationand civic engagement (e.g., Civnet,CIRCLE, Civic Practices Network, Na-tional Issues Forum, etc.). ATask Force“Articulation Statement” (Carter andElshtain 1997) reflected some degree of consensus among Task Force members,but was intended as a means for gener-ating reactions and facilitating furtherdiscussion rather than as a statement of conclusions or an agenda for the field.The Task Force also sponsored a num-ber of professional conference panels,developed a section of the APSAwebsite devoted to civic education and re-lated activities, and established a “listserv” (APSA-Cived) that continues toregularly inform a few hundred sub-scribers about relevant issues andactivities.This symposium is the byproduct of another Task Force project—an effort tobring together scholars from politicalscience and psychology who share acommon interest in “youth civic devel-opment.” Working under a grant fromthe W. T. Grant Foundation, a meetingwas hosted by the McHugh FamilyEndowment in March 2001 at ColoradoCollege’s Baca Grande Campus to
Melvin J. Dubnick 
is professor of political science and public administration at RutgersUniversity, Newark. He served as co-chair (with Jean Elshtain) of the APSA Task Force onCivic Education from 1996 to 2002, and is aneditor and list-serv manager for APSA-CIVED.He is currently working on a book titled “Edu-cating Nomads” that explores the pedagogic implications of immersive media for the future of civic education.
and Junn 1998), documented the inef-fectiveness of formal education in pro-viding students with basic politicalknowledge.The emergence of the youth civicdevelopment perspective reflected in thefollowing articles can be regarded as(1) a natural extension of the ongoingwork in the developmentalist perspec-tive, (2) a reaction to challenges posedby a reinvigorated traditionalist move-ment in education, and (3) a growingconcern with the perceived critical con-dition of our civic life.Within the developmentalist para-digm, one cannot ignore the powerfulinfluence of Lawrence Kohlberg’s moraldevelopment approach—an influencethat effectively re-legitimized a relatedconcern for civic life among develop-mentalists. Kohlberg’s view of the“child as moral philosopher” (Kohlberg1968), with its emphasis on the inherentmoral dispositions of youth, was easilytransformed into a perspective that re-gards the “child as a good citizen.”Kohlberg put his views to work in theestablishment of the Cambridge (MA)“Cluster School” in the 1970s,and in the process made explicitin practice the link between moraldevelopment education and civiclife. It is an important legacywith significant implications forthe work in the field (Carr 1998).The interest in youth civic de-velopment has also been spurredby the rebirth of support for tra-ditional forms of moral educationand character education duringthe 1980s and 1990s (Bennett1992; Lickona 1991). The devel-opmentalist bias toward more in-direct forms of civic educationhad created a vacuum in theK–12 curriculum that William Bennettand others moved to fill through politi-cal efforts at both the national and localschool board levels. By reconfiguringthe developmentalist model to elevatecivic experiences and values as a majorcomponent of childhood and adolescentdevelopment, the youth civic develop-ment approach has provided a justifica-tion for devoting more explicit attentionto political and civic knowledge andskills in the curriculum without havingto accept the traditionalist critique of the “death of character” (Hunter 2000)or its moralist educational agenda.Finally, the youth civic developmentapproach has been energized by a grow-ing awareness within the developmental-ist community that all is not well in ourcivic lives. Among those concerned withthe condition of our liberal democracy,the challenge of “democratic education”(“to maintain the precarious balance be-tween not violating individual freedomand yet encouraging moral commitmentto democratic values”; Puolimatka 1997,461) has generated well-articulated ra-tionales for revisiting the issue of ap-propriate civic education curriculum andpedagogy (Galston 1988; Galston 2001;Gutmann 1980; Gutmann 1987; Macedo1995; Macedo 1999). The contemporarycrisis in “social capital” expressed inRobert Putnam’s “Bowling Alone” thesis(Putnam 1995a; Putnam 1995b; Putnam1996; Putnam 2000) has proven a po-tent stimulant as well.Connie Flanagan’s overview of tworecent studies reflects the fundamentalassumptions of the current developmen-talist perspective. The central issues of the research she describes revolvearound what forms of childhood andadolescent experience nurture the “ethicof civic participation” and “democraticdispositions” that are already present inthe child. While informed by the politi-cal socialization studies of the past, theyouth civic development studies under-taken by Flanagan and her colleaguesplace that work in a different theoreticalcontext. As Robert Dudley and Alan Gi-telson note, during its “bull market”days, political socialization research wasshaped by a concern for uncovering thechildhood sources of adult political be-havior and attitudes. The developmentalperspective was absent or secondary tothe Freudian, neo-Freudian, and relatedtheories that were indifferent to claimsof some inherent moral or social nature.And while more recent studies of politi-cal socialization and political knowledgehave not assumed an explicitly develop-mental perspective, Dudley and Gitelsonpoint to an increasing interest in “un-derstanding the developmental links be-tween early childhood and adolescenceand the ongoing adult process of politi-cal socialization....”The influence of the developmental-ist perspective is evident as well in thedesign and analysis of the latest IEACivic Education Study described by Ju-dith Torney-Purta and Jo-Ann Amadeo.Going beyond the scoring of politicalknowledge among adolescents, the re-cent studies focus on the age factor togenerate some insight into the particu-lar role of youth development in civicawareness, attitudes, and knowledge. Asimilar cross-national and cross-culturalresearch agenda provided Kohlbergwith the empirical support required toextend his moral development model.The research reported by Andolina,Jenkins, Zukin, and Keeter is not ex-plicitly embedded in a developmentalistframe, although the effort to track thepath of youth civic engagement in theDotNet generation is clearly informedby that perspective. This is most evidentin the stress on finding those “prods” inadolescent life that will enhance futurecivic engagement—a view clearly inline with the idea that there is a predis-position to involvement that can eitherbe fostered or limited by exposure tocertain experiences.The study summarized by EdwardMetz and James Youniss is more explic-itly tied to the developmentalist view.While stressing the role of inclinationsand psychological dispositions in theiranalysis, the authors are careful to notethe influence of other factors as drawnfrom other work on volunteerism(Verba, Schlozman, and Brady 1995).For civic education, however, the ideathat community service initiatives andrelated activities increased the likelihoodof future civic engagement has obviousimplications for discussions of civic-rel-evant curriculum.Finally, Lonnie Sherrod and his col-leagues at Fordham are relying on thedevelopmentalist perspective to help inthe design of educational “strategies of intervention” that will be used to en-hance future civic engagement amongmarginalized youths. By studying thepolitical views of these youths—estab-lishing where they are in their stage of civic development—Sherrod hopes todevelop means for promoting civicyouth engagement among racial andother minorities.While Sherrod’s work is the mostblatantly purposive of the group, there isa fundamental normative perspective un-derlying all these papers and other work on youth civic development. It is a nor-mative position informed by a contestedview of human nature. While main-stream developmentalists seem to bemaking headway in generating validatingresearch and designing and testing inter-ventionist strategies, their work remainsvulnerable to attack from those who
April 2003
[T]he youth civic devel-opment approach hasbeen energized by agrowing awareness within the developmen-talist community that allis not well in our civiclives.

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