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.