This thesis develops a working civic education blueprint for New Jersey's public colleges and universities and proposes concrete steps the State, particularly the governor and the Commission on Higher Education, can take to support their efforts. Civic education must be strategically integrated into the campus culture, the co-curriculum, and most importantly, the curriculum of higher education institutions hope to foster an ethic of service that diffuses across campus and reaches all students. Two overriding objectives should guide higher education in its civic mission: 1) providing students with multiple pathways, both curricular and co-curricular, that support their development as citizens across their collegiate career and 2) identifying and increasing the short-and long-term capacity of community partners.
Being a responsible citizen in a democratic society demands acquiring a strong foundational understanding of American history and the political process, staying informed of current events, upholding democratic values, cultivating a habit of civic involvement, and recognizing oneself as a democratic participant and contributor to the public good. In line with this definition, responsible citizenship can be broken down into these six categories: knowledge, values, skills, engagement, identity, and sense of efficacy. Although these are mutually reinforcing elements, any pattern of engagement, formation of civic identity, and feeling of a sense of efficacy must be predicated on civic knowledge, values, and skills.
Some schools in New Jersey have made education for citizenship a cornerstone of their overarching institutional mission while others have been more neglectful, or at least less intentional, in readying students for rich civic lives. If the State of New Jersey seriously believes its public colleges and universities should be mandated to prepare students for lives of responsible citizenship, as it claims in its Long-Range Plan for Higher Education, then it must demand that they do more and help them in doing so.
Taking into account the presently severe New Jersey budgetary constraints, there are immediate steps that the State can take that require minimal financial investment and then others that must await a healthier state budget. A New Jersey Campus Compact should be established to perform the following functions for higher education statewide: 1) convene conferences, workshops, and meetings on civic education; 2) coordinate and promote civic engagement grant opportunities; 3) enhance the capacity of college civic engagement programs; 4) recognize outstanding public service and leadership; 5) promote public policy that would advance civic engagement efforts.
Other actions that should be taken immediately are for Governor Corzine to exert more gubernatorial leadership by calling on public colleges and universities to develop strategic plans that address their civic missions and forming a task force on K-16 civic education; the Commission on Higher Education should organize a state-wide colloquium on education for citizenship. When the monies become available, the State should fund a New Jersey Higher Education Civic Engagement Matching Grant Program and pilot a New Jersey Campus-Community Corps Program that would supplement AmeriCorps volunteers on college campuses.
Frederick, Andrew P., "Preparing Students for Lives of Responsible Citizenship: A Higher Education Civic Blueprint for the State of New Jersey" (2007). Dissertation and Thesis. 52.
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