by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
George Leef’s latest Martin Center commentary probes the disturbing spread of the “new civics” on college campuses.
One of the ways the college curriculum has changed for the worse in recent decades is the rise of what David Randall terms “the New Civics” in a hefty report published in January by the National Association of Scholars (NAS). This is a development that should alarm Americans who care about the integrity of higher education, not to say the future of the country.
Randall, Director of Communications for NAS, observes that the old education in civics for Americans consisted of high school courses in which students learned the basics of citizenship, followed usually by a course or two in college that deepened their understanding of our law and governmental institutions.
The old civics, however, has eroded badly since the 1960s.
High school civics has mostly been replaced with mushy “social studies” classes that are often geared toward degrading everything about the U.S. And few colleges retain any core courses covering the old civics. A student who wanted such a course might have trouble finding one in the catalogue.
What has moved in to fill the old civics void at many colleges is “the New Civics.” Rather than informing students about civics, the New Civics has an entirely different purpose—turning students into activists. The main goal, the report states, “is getting students to engage in coordinated social action.” Sometimes that entails direct political action (such as the recent marches against Trump’s immigration order), but mostly it involves pushing students into volunteering for projects that promote leftist causes.
Randall emphasizes that the faculty and administrators behind New Civics are only interested in fostering one variety of civic engagement among students, namely “progressive.”