Civic Learning and Engagement

Dear Colleagues!

A huge thanks to the many in the education community and beyond who have provided thoughtful and valuable feedback on our Civic Learning and Engagement (CLE) Blog!  The responses were so rich we have decided to repost the blog to allow more time for responses.

This blog will be open to comments through Friday, March 15th, 2013.  Again, your input is incredibly valuable to the future development of ED’s CLE Initiative; this initiative is being designed with you in mind so thank you in advance for your time and input!


At a White House event in January of 2013, the Obama Administration released its Road Map for CLE, “Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy”. This Road Map, developed by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), is a “Call to Action” that outlines nine steps ED is taking as it explores ways it can better work with students, families, communities and leaders in education, business, labor, and philanthropy and government agencies, to reinvigorate civic learning and engagement in our educational system from grades pre-school through post-graduate levels, nationwide. We envision a broad commitment from “cradle to career” that emphasizes the urgent need to provide a high quality education for students that prepares them to grow into informed, engaged and responsible members of our global society, while at the same time providing opportunities for discover how they can contribute to a better world.   You are invited to watch the release event at the WH and read ED’s Road Map to learn more.


Since the release of the Road Map, ED strives to achieve its nine objectives.  As part of this process, ED seeks the public’s input.  We encourage educators, practitioners, students, researchers, and any other interested parties to submit thoughtful opinions, ideas, suggestions and comments pertaining to the outline below:

A.      How ED Defines “Civic Learning and Engagement Programs”

Non-partisan programs, which build civic knowledge and skills by providing educational and service opportunities that help students become informed and engaged members of our society.  ED believes civic learning and engagement programs can be facilitated through a two pronged approach:

  1. Development, through the study of American History, Civics and Government, of students’ foundational civic knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors.
  2. Participation in engaging and interactive activities (e.g., service-learning, community-based projects, simulations, and advocacy) that provide students the opportunity to connect their learning to the needs of their community through action and reflection, thus broadening their understanding for how they can apply their new civic knowledge to create systemic change that will improve positive and productive societal outcomes. Activities should be selected and organized with input from faculty, students and the beneficiaries of the activity, and can be developed in partnership with educational institutions, faith and/or community-based organizations, government, philanthropies, businesses, and other stakeholders.

B.      How ED will Support Civic Learning

Of the nine objectives ED is implementing to support civic learning and engagement activities, we specifically request feedback on how to best:

  1. Convene and catalyze the education community to increase and enhance high-quality civic learning and engagement opportunities.
  2. Identify civic learning and engagement indicators to measure student outcomes and encouraging further research to learn more about appropriate and effective program design.
  3. Leverage federal investments and public-private partnerships to support civic learning and engagement activities where permitted and feasible.
  4. Highlight and promote civic learning and engagement opportunities for students, families and other stakeholders as collaborators and problem-solvers in education.

Read More on CLE at ED:
– Secretary Duncan’s remarks at “For Democracies Future” WH convening mentioned above and at the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues on the Power of Debate.

Please direct all submissions to or post them on directly on this blog.

This is a moderated site. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. We intend to post all responsive submissions on a timely basis. We reserve the right not to post comments that are unrelated to this request, are inconsistent with ED’s Web site policies, are advertisements or endorsements, or are otherwise inappropriate. To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. For more information, please be sure to read the “comments policy” tab at the top of the Web page.

The fine print: Please understand that posts must be related to Civic Learning Initiative, and should be as specific as possible, and, as appropriate, supported by data and relevant research. Posts must be limited to 1,000 words. All opinions, ideas, suggestions and comments are considered informal input. If you include a link to additional information in your post, we urge you to ensure that the linked-to information is accessible to all individuals, including individuals with disabilities. Additionally, please do not include links to advertisements or endorsements; we will delete all such links before your comment is posted.

Again, thank you for your interest in this opportunity to support civic learning. We look forward to hearing from you.


  1. First, thank you for this opportunity to contribute to the Road Map for civic learning. I have spent the last 25 years thinking, writing, and studying this topic, so I am grateful for this opportunity.

    My advice would be to focus on “policy service-learning”, particularly when working with college and high school students. Policy service-learning is where students in small groups take an idea that they would like to change on campus, in the local community, or in the nation, and work on that policy.

    I am a Sociologist, so the students connect what they are learning in the community with social theory, ideas about community change, and sociological concepts. However, this same idea of integrating praxis and classroom ideas could be used in whatever discipline is being taught.

    Over the past 10 years, my policy service-learning students have worked on a variety ideas, including:

    • increasing the minimum wage in San Jose. Two years ago, my students launched a campaign to increase the minimum wage to $10. This past November, our campaign was successful when San Jose passed our minimum wage proposition with 60% of the vote. We accomplished two of the President’s goal at once: civic education and increasing the minimum wage! If interested, take a look at The Nation’s recent article:;

    • the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. The students developed two federal bills (i.e., Gulf Coast Civic Works Act) and had them introduced into Congress in 2007 and 2008. Then, the students helped lead a coalition of 200 organization to enact the bills (;

    • the re-instatement of the Education Opportunity Program (EOP) at SJSU in 2008. This program, whcih had all been abandoned by the University, was brought back by my students after a three-month campaign, and it is now staffed with a director and assistant director and has over 50 students in the program;

    • a campaign to get the University President to sign an executive order creating a sweatshop-free campus, which my students’ achieved in 2007;

    • the creation of Poverty Under the Stars–an annual campus sleep out that brings 150 students and community members together to highlight poverty and homelessness in our community and nation.

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