Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Democracy, not civics and not civil 

I mentioned in discussing our president's convocation address that SCSU is taking part in the American Democracy Project, which I labeled then as a equating democratic citizenship with civic service rather than liberty. According to KC Johnson, it's worse than we thought:
Then there's my own Brooklyn College, where "The Arts of Democracy" has no courses related to democracy or international relations in political science, history, economics, or philosophy. Students learn, instead, that democracy entails support for a "community of diversity," with courses on such topics as literature and cultural diversity and global cinema.


The provost, Roberta Matthews, termed the idea that colleges should focus on transmitting knowledge "a very outdated notion." That, perhaps, explains why the instructors in Brooklyn's "Arts of Democracy" include the dean of student life--who notes that before the attacks of September 11, few understood the nation could be targeted by "those referred to as 'terrorists' or by other American citizens." The new curriculum will help students answer such questions as, "Was September 11 contrived?" and "What did the United States government know and when did it know it?" and "Whose rights would be violated now?"

All too familiar to us at SCSU. But there's another motive, says our own provost:
American Democracy Project: This initiative is sponsored by AASCU and the NY Times. SCSU is one of 145 AASCU universities who have signed up to participate. The project seeks to develop a sense of civic engagement within communities. Public education is increasingly viewed as a private good � students are seen as pursuing higher education to earn more money, get better jobs, and advance themselves. The current thinking is that if public education is a private good, then individual students should be paying for higher education, and more and more public support is being withdrawn. The American Democracy Project seeks to generate activity through curriculum and co-curricular activities to encourage students to participate in the civic life of the community. This year there will be an attempt to initiate conversations across campus for all faculty and staff and interested parties to generate ideas for incorporating civic engagement into the curriculum. A place to begin is an audit of activities our faculty are already doing in this area.
In other words, let's create alumni supportive of higher education so we can have bigger budgets, and a bigger State, in the future. O brave new world!