Civic education in school is all that can save our crumbling democracy

Michael A. Smith

Michael Smith

Between 10 and 15 years ago, political science professors discoveries renewed our interest in civic engagement.

Retired U.S. Sen. Bob Graham and his collaborator Chris Hand published the first edition of their book “America: The Owner’s Manual” in 2009, arguing that the best hope for the renewal of American democracy lies in teaching a new cadre of involved, interested citizens who begin their journeys of civic activism by making change at the local level, usually on nonpartisan issues.

The authors give numerous examples and tips. The American Political Science Association hosted their first annual Teaching and Learning Conference in 2005, while the Journal of Political Science Education had debuted the previous year.

I met Graham at the annual MPSA conference, after I had already begun teaching the book in an introductory political science course. In 2012, I took a sabbatical — my only one to date — working with Graham to develop a high school curriculum. We tried to convince high school teachers to adopt it.

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