An Extracurricular Crucible

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

The Department of Education thinks it has found out what is wrong with American higher education—not enough extracurricular activities, specifically, not enough political ones. “A Crucible Moment likewise calls for transformations necessary for this generation,” a report from the  National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement claims.” A daunting one is to eliminate persistent inequalities, especially those in the United States determined by income and race, in order to secure the country’s economic and civic future.”

“ But the academy must also be a vehicle for tackling other pressing issues—growing global economic inequalities, climate change and environmental degradation, lack of access to quality health care, economic volatility, and more. To do that requires expanding students’ capacities to be civic problem-solvers using all their powers of intellect and inventiveness.”

“The extracurricular has invaded the curricular, and A Crucible Moment is its declaration of war,” my predecessor at Accuracy in Academia, Dan Flynn wrote in Academic Questions, a journal published by the National Association of Scholars. “Perhaps as disturbing as what the report says is what it leaves out.”

“The authors’ conception of education for democracy includes numerous references to global warming and income inequality, but barely a mention of the liberal arts. In fact, liberal education appears just twice in the main body of the lengthy report: the first in reference to the National Governors Association study mentioned above,and the second to define liberal education in part as ‘acting responsibly toward the surrounding community in all its diversity.’ By way of comparison, the phrase ‘service learning’ appears fifty-nine times.”

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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