Colleges Become Democracy 'Boot Camps'

By Khadaroo, Stacy Teicher | The Christian Science Monitor, December 13, 2007 | Go to article overview

Colleges Become Democracy 'Boot Camps'


Khadaroo, Stacy Teicher, The Christian Science Monitor


The waiting list is long for a class at Providence College where democracy comes to life.

Right off the bat, Prof. Richard Battistoni asks the class to decide together how they should be graded. He routinely turns discussion-leading over to pairs of students.

As the semester wound down recently, students presented "artifacts" that symbolized their own views of what democracy means - everything from a voter registration form to a box of spaghetti (in which all the pieces are equal).

Strategies in this class and similar ones around the country aim to equip students to make their mark in the landscape of American democracy. But such efforts are too rare in higher education, some in the academic world say. They are urging colleges to do more to foster students' desire and ability to contribute in the political realm. The classroom, they say, can be a neutral arena for students to test their ideas and reflect on their attempts to make change in whatever real-world project they take on.

The Political Engagement Project by the Carnegie FounA-dation for the Advancement of Teaching in Stanford, Calif., which studied the outcomes of 21 such courses, is at the forefront of this push.

College students these days are doing volunteer projects in droves, but campuses don't offer enough "that is strong on educating them for their political responsibilities ... [for] trying to make a difference on a systemic level - that is a really important gap," says Anne Colby, a senior scholar at Carnegie and coauthor of a new book emerging from the three-year project, "Educating for Democracy: Preparing Students for Responsible Political Engagement."

Focus on engagement

The students tracked in the 21 courses, at a wide variety of colleges, gained on scales of political motivation, understanding, and skills. After taking these classes, they were more inclined to read about politics, to plan future involvement in political action, and to feel that they would be effective. Those who started without much interest in political issues (about half) made the most gains.

In urging colleges and universities to involve students more in political learning, it's essential that there be a neutral environment for discussion, says Thomas Ehrlich, an "Educating for Democracy" coauthor. "So much of the dialogue about politics that students hear from politicians and the media is the 'Crossfire' variety. In a college or university there's the obligation to engage in open inquiry, with rational issues being debated based on sound evidence ... and not just emotion."

The professors of these courses seek out diverse opinions and minority voices. "If a student expresses some discomfort with a point of view, we'll [ask him or her] to take that point of view and learn how to argue with it," says Alma Blount, director of the Hart Leadership Program at Duke University.

When Battistoni has students lead the class, at least one takes on the role of "vibes watcher." "If students are attacking other students instead of their ideas ... the vibes watcher can intervene," he says. "If students are silent or not really voicing their opinions ... the vibes watcher tries to lift those voices up."

It's not an easy job. During one discussion about gender and 19th- century laws, the issue of rape within marriage came up. One student said he didn't understand how it was possible for there to be rape in marriage, and the student discussion leaders "didn't want to honor that opinion at all," Battistoni says. After a few minutes of heated discussion, everyone backed off. "Some faculty are reticent to have open dialogue and discussion-based courses, because you never know what's going to happen," he says.

Many of the courses include service-learning projects, which are predictors of political engagement, according to a report by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at the University of California, Los Angeles. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Colleges Become Democracy 'Boot Camps'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.