Going Back to School: A University-Middle School Civics
Many scholars, governmental agencies, and foundations have urged institutions of higher education to refocus their energies on the creation of responsible and engaged citizens. In response, some universities sought to expand their curricula and to refine their mission statements and university strategic plans to take into consideration the new emphasis on engagement. These efforts proved largely fruitful, but often relied on creating discipline specific community partnerships that did little to bridge disciplinary divisions or to reach out beyond traditional partners. While the colleges and universities adapted their curricula in response to the call for greater levels of community engagement, elementary and secondary schools were in the midst of a serious civic crisis. Schools eliminated their civics courses and dramatically decreased their instruction in social studies as well in response to the narrow focus on math and language arts in the No Child Left Behind requirements and budget shortfalls in school coffers. These school districts found that social studies and civics education were luxuries that they could little afford. Thus, just as institutions of higher education were attempting to reinvigorate their own engagement with the community and develop reciprocal relationships with their community partners, elementary and middle schools were looking for opportunities to bring civics and engagement into the classroom at little cost to them. This paper will examine one engagement model that may prove useful to other campuses wrestling with the issues of reciprocity and engagement and highlight some of the challenges and benefits of such work.
Keywords: Civic Education, Community Engagement, and Higher Education
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