Teaching the "Habits of Democracy"
“Politics isn’t dysfunction because of polarization, per se, so much as political detachment…'I think there’s some causation that American higher education has stopped, in the main, thinking of citizenship and democracy as its basic purpose and begun to think in a much narrower sense of ‘college is good for career.’ If kids lack faith in, or appreciation for, the principles of self-government, then politics will naturally atrophy.” On this Independence Day, it’s easy to feel pride for our nation’s past years and accomplishments. It is also easy to despair at the current state of our politics, and wonder what the future will bring. Should we, however, chose action rather than worry and mere reflection? What would that look like? Longwood University in Farmville, VA, the site of October’s vice-presidential debate, is pioneering a new vision of a liberal arts education that seeks to counteract this phenomenon by inculcating “the habits of democracy.” Responding to a turbulent and vitriolic election cycle, the school is changing its liberal arts focus from “personal understanding and development of your own personal sensibilities” to questions of how one might “bring to bear the great bodies of knowledge to the act of living a life in a free society.” Longwood will offer 31 pilot classes this fall that touch on the American elections, democracy, or the Constitution in some way. Since politics permeates everyday life in America, is this a wise approach? Will this lead to a more engaged and civicly-minded populace? Does this approach renew the heart of the purpose of higher education? READ THE FULL ARTICLE
The Wall Street Journal l July 1, 2016