Do Charter Schools Promote Citizenship
THE “COMMON-SCHOOL” MOVEMENT OF THE 1840s placed public schools center stage as the most important provider of civic education in the United States. While the leaders of this movement, “school men” like Horace Mann and Henry Barnard, had a variety of goals for public education (Goldin and Katz 2003), the influx of immigrants to the nation in the second half of the nineteenth century created a perceived need to socialize the newcomers to American values and made citizenship education a central task of the public-school system (Perkinson 1991). Over a century later, schools continue to be seen as important in this endeavor by a large proportion of the American population (see, for example, Moe 2001, 86–91; Hochschild and Scovronick 2003, 9–27), and this attitude is embodied in Macedo's observation that “good citizens are not simply born that way, they must be educated by schools” (2000, 16).
The perceived link between schools and good citizenship also affects policy makers. A body of research suggests that service and activism by students are associated with lifelong civic engagement involving voting, trust in government, and participation in voluntary organizations, so it is probably not surprising that many policy makers and educators now call upon school districts to implement programs requiring students to perform service as a way of building civic capacity and promoting democratic citizenship (see, for example, Youniss, McLellan, and Yates 1997; Jennings 2002; Metz and Youniss 2003; Stewart, Settles, and Winter 1998).
It is also not surprising that citizenship education and the political socialization of American youth is a long-standing topic of interest to an interdisciplinary community of researchers, including philosophers, sociologists, political scientists, psychologists, and scholars of education.1 However, such interest has been somewhat cyclical. Beginning in the late 1950s with the seminal work of Hyman (1959), the topic attracted considerable research attention, but fell out of favor by the early 1980s. The last decade, however, witnessed a resurgence of interest in the topic (see, for example, Galston 2001; Niemi and Hepburn 1995; Niemi and Junn 1998; Verba, Schlozman, and Brady 1995).
One reason for the renewed interest is the accumulating evidence of a decline in civic participation and political involvement in the United