insights from the k-12 civic education System Map

For CivXNow, we recently created a System Map of k-12 civics. Perhaps the greatest value of the map is that we didn’t decide what was on it or how things fit together. More than 7,500 people co-created it by answering survey questions. We didn’t ask them what strategy they favored but whether they thought that various specific factors influenced other specific factors, and we built a network from the results. More about the method and its rationale is here.

In this post, I would like to derive some substantive results from the map.

First, look at what is connected to two different possible outcomes of civic education: youth knowledge (on the left) and youth civic engagement (on the right). Almost the whole map has direct connections to knowledge; very little is connected to youth engagement. Of the causes of youth engagement, one is knowledge–which sends us back to the diagram on the left. Another cause is “schools are [generally] effective institutions,” which may seem beyond the power of the civic education community.

Overall, it appears that we have created much more of a “system” for generating youth knowledge than for empowering youth to act. To the extent that people are working on the latter goal, their efforts are not nearly as visible to our 7,500 respondents.

Second, compare two factors that have to do with the content and pedagogy of civics. On the left is whether civics addresses complex and current issues and controversies. On the right is whether teachers are able to present civics without bias and withstand a polarized political environment outside the classroom

Either goal may be very important. You might reasonably consider either (or both) to be your main concern. But the one on the left is highly leveraged, affecting many other outcomes. The one on the right has virtually no leverage at all. Our community doubts that if civics avoided problems of bias, then anything else would improve.

Third, take a look at funding. This was linked to more other factors than any other node on the map. I assume that is because it is relatively easy to envision that having more money would change a whole range of outcomes. We all know that money has value. (That’s why they call it “money.”)

The Role of Funding

But how would we get more money? This map rightly portrays funding as a “midstream” issue. Yes, money would help, but other factors–notably, including civics in accountability systems and making civic engagement more of a public priority–are what would yield more funding. The map suggests that even if money is an important means, it is likely not the best target for advocacy.

Now take a look at how people connected “Teachers are Well Prepared to Teach Civics” to other nodes. This is the factor that captures pre-service education, professional development, etc. Respondents did see it as a driver of more engaging pedagogy and of more current issue-discussions. But the ultimate outcome they expected was better knowledge, not more civic engagement.

How People View Professional Development

This could mean that most teacher education and PD presents student knowledge as the explicit goal, and engaging pedagogy as a means. Should it be otherwise?

Finally, let’s zoom in for greater detail. This is a screenshot from the version of the map that displays 75 components clustered into larger factors. I have highlighted the components that may reflect a concern with history and classic texts (often coded as conservative) and those that reflect a desire for students to take action (sometimes seen as progressive).

Components Involving Action Civics and Historical Texts

The point I would like to emphasize is that these goals are not in conflict. They light up different parts of the map. It’s possible to work on both goals at once.

The American Political Science Association Institute for Civically Engaged Research (ICER) at Tisch College this summer

June 17-22, 2019

Background and Purpose

Scholars in many disciplines are grappling with how to produce rigorous scholarship that addresses significant social challenges in collaboration with communities, organizations, and agencies. They strive to learn from non-academics, to benefit from the research capacity of all kinds of groups and institutions, and to give back to communities rather than extract value from them. Although political scientists offer models of excellence in civically engaged research, relevant methods and strategies are not yet widely taught in the discipline’s graduate programs or sufficiently valued in the profession as a whole. 

Therefore, the American Political Science Association (APSA) Council has authorized an annual APSA Institute for Civically Engaged Research (ICER) to begin in summer 2019. ICER is intended for advanced graduate students in political science and political scientists at any stage of their careers who wish to shift to using civically engaged research. It is not meant for scholars who are already experienced in that approach.

Content of the Institute 

The Institute will address topics such as: 

  • Expertise: what do political scientists contribute? What are the limitations of scholarly expertise? What expertise do others have?
  • The needs of scholars as compared to community groups or political actors. Tensions and ways of addressing them.
  • The ethics of collaboration: sharing of credit, funds and overhead, IRB issues, sharing results, dealing with disagreements.
  • Communicating results: to partners, communities, the press, directly to the broad public. Dealing with controversy.
  • How to define and honor values of like neutrality, objectivity, and rigor.
  • Career issues:  publication and credit, tenure and promotion, fundraising.
  • Mapping the different and varied ways that political scientists engage.

We will explore these issues by discussing relevant readings, by analyzing specific examples of civically engaged political science research, and by considering the research plans and ideas of the participants in the Institute.

The Institute will take place on the campus of Tufts University, in the Boston area, from June 17-22, 2019. Approximately twenty participants will meet each day from June 17-20 for intensive discussions. Participants are expected to attend the Frontiers of Democracy conference with approximately 120 other scholars and practitioners from the evening of June 20 until noon on June 22 in downtown Boston.

How to Apply

Thanks to support from the APSA, participation in the Institute and the conference is free, and scholarships are available to defray costs of travel, food, and housing in dormitories on the Tufts campus. Applicants are expected to seek financial support from their home institution, but admission to the Institute for Civically Engaged Research will not be affected by financial need.

To apply, please complete this form. It will ask for 1) your name, your institution, and program of study or current employment; 2) your reasons for interest in the Institute; 3) your background in political science research and in civically engaged research; 4) your areas of special research interest; and 5) your demographics. You are also asked to upload your CV and your unofficial academic transcript if you are a current graduate student or earned a PhD within the last five years.


Confirmed speakers and visitors include: Valeria Sinclair Chapman (Purdue), Archon Fung (Harvard), Taeku Lee (Berkeley), Robert Lieberman (Johns Hopkins), Jamila Michener (Cornell), Amy Cabrera Rasmussen (Cal State-Long Beach), Pearl Robinson (Tufts), and Rogers Smith (University of Pennsylvania). 

Also involved with the Institute are: Amanda Grigg (APSA) and Hahrie Han (University of California Santa Barbara)

The organizer and Principal Investigator on the project is Peter Levine (Tufts’ Tisch College of Civic Life and Department of Political Science). 

Related Opportunities 

  • The 11th annual Summer Institute of Civic Studies will take place at Tufts’ Tisch College of Civic Life from June 23-28, 2019, following ICER. It is highly interdisciplinary and focused on a set of readings about how people work together to improve the world, how people reason together about what is right to do, and what practices and institutional structures promote these kinds of citizenship. Applications are due on March 30, 2019.
  • The Center on Democracy and Organizing (CDO) is seeking applications from advanced Ph.D. students and early career researchers and organizers for participation in an interdisciplinary institute focused on the study of democracy and organizing. This institute will be held from July 31 to August 2 at the University of California, Berkeley. Political scientists are encouraged to apply. The organizers of the APSA/Tufts Institute and the CDO institute will ensure that the content does not overlap substantially. 
  • The fifth annual European Institute of Civic Studies will take place in Herrsching, near Munich, Germany, from July 14-27, 2019. It is open to graduate students and scholars in any discipline who are citizens of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Poland, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, or Uzbekistan. To apply, send a letter of interest, a curriculum vitae, and an academic transcript (if applicable) to Prof. Kloubert at by March 15, 2019, for best consideration
  • Postdoctoral Fellowships at Tisch College:
  1. Tufts University will award a Post-Doctoral Fellowship to a scholar with expertise in American political behavior and survey data analysis for the 2019-20 academic year. The Fellowship is partly funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation and will be awarded to a scholar with a Ph.D. in Political Science or a related discipline with research interests that intersect with the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES). Applicants should have completed the requirements for their Ph.D. by the time of appointment, which is planned for August 1, 2019. The post-doc will be located at Tufts University in the Department of Political Science and in the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. More information and application materials are here.
  2. Tisch College will award a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Civic Science for the 2019-20 academic year (June 1, 2019 to May 31, 2020). This postdoctoral fellowship is offered in partnership with the Charles F. Kettering Foundation in Dayton, OH, and involves some work at Kettering’s offices in Dayton as well as full-time employment at Tufts in the Boston area. The Tisch College Civic Science initiative, led by Dr. Jonathan Garlick, aims to reframe how key participants—scientists, the public, the media, institutions of higher education, and other stakeholders engage the national dialogue about science issues. Civic Science is interdisciplinary, and this fellowship is open to a PhD in any relevant field. The Fellow will conduct research related to Civic Science, both independently and in collaboration with Prof. Garlick and the Kettering Foundation. He or she will teach one course to undergraduates in the Civic Studies Major. The Fellow will attend orientation and research meetings at the Kettering Foundation as requested. More information and application materials are here.

Both Postdoctoral Fellows will attend and participate in the Summer Institute of Civic Studies at Tisch College.

Brag, Cave and Crow: a contribution to game theory

Game theory models interactions by presenting the “players” as people (or organizations) who face choices, and the outcome as the result of how they each choose. In conflictual circumstances, the players can choose between the option that their opponent would prefer (cooperate) or the one that their opponent would not prefer (defect). In certain unpleasant circumstances, such as the Prisoner’s Dilemma, every player is better off defecting even though that outcome is worst for all.

Donald Trump has faced a set of conflictual games as president, with North Korea, Mexico and Canada, China, and Chuck & Nancy (among others) on the opposite side of the table. He has frequently applied the novel strategy of Brag, Cave, and Crow (Trump, DJ et al. 2019). It works like this: First declare very loudly that you will defect and the other side will be forced to cooperate, then cooperate, and then declare very loudly that the other side was the one that cooperated.

This is not as dumb as it sounds.

First, assume that you can convince yourself that you did win. Payers seek to achieve their own preferences or maximize their own satisfaction. If you talk yourself into the idea that you won even though someone might see you as having folded, your subjective feelings are fine. That’s a win. Meanwhile, the conflict is gone and does you no more damage.

Second, if you are Donald Trump, you are always more interested in another game, a popularity contest. You are appealing to an audience of consumers or voters. Insofar as you can persuade them that you won even though you folded, you do win what you wanted most. And in a world of echo chambers and partisan heuristics, often this is exactly what happens. For instance, settle for the substance of NAFTA with minor tweaks, but rename it with an acronym that has “US … A” in it, and you can Brag, Cave, and Crow (BCC) for the win.

In the immediate circumstances, it’s good that BCC pays off for Donald Trump. It’s much better that he should brag about having solved the North Korean nuclear standoff than convince himself that he must actually force North Korea to denuclearize. Likewise, if he can claim he built a wall on the southern border when he didn’t, that will save us all some money, preserve the Constitution, offend Mexico less than a physical wall would, and leave nature and landowners alone.

At this juncture, Trump’s choice is either to Crow or to go back to the Brag stage. In other words, he can declare that he won or else threaten to win in the future with a veto or a declaration of emergency. I don’t think he can both Brag and Crow at the same moment about the same thing, although the echo chamber may be hermetic enough to allow that to work to some degree.

Alas, the incentive to BCC is yet another blow to responsible and accountable governance and public deliberation.

See also game theory and the shutdown; the emperor’s new wall; and why learn game theory?

a public university as civic anchor

I’ve been at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, subjecting a substantial group of faculty to not one, but two, keynote talks during their professional development conference just before their semester starts.

In the first talk, I drew a link between the decline of everyday civic life and the poor state of American politics. As I noted, this is a nonpartisan framing and one that somewhat bypasses highly contested issues, such as race and class. In other contexts, I endorse more partisan and divisive diagnoses. In fact, the last time I was in Wisconsin, it was to talk to an #Indivisible group, and that meeting found its way into a Washington Post story about “turn[ing] Wisconsin back to blue.” But I also believe in the framing I gave today, and it has two major advantages for a public university. It is relatively neutral about the kinds of issues about which students and other citizens disagree, and it assigns a significant role to the university itself, as a community anchor that can support the everyday civic work of deliberation, collaboration, and forming civic relationships.

Here is the Prezi for that talk:

The second talk was about the intellectual work we need in classrooms and research programs. Just as citizens must ask “What should we do?”, so scholars should study and teach that question. But it tends to slip between the tessellation of our academic disciplines, which focus more on how and why things happen, what opinions we should form, what governments should do, or what constitutes justice. What we should actually do is constantly sidestepped.

Remedying that problem is the impetus behind Civic Studies, a small but international movement with a space in the Tufts curriculum as a major. UW Green Bay already offers a remarkable array of interdisciplinary degree programs. But those might take some inspiration and insights from the content of Civic Studies.

Here is the Prezi for that one:

Tisch College Postdoc in Civic Science

Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life will award a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Civic Science for the 2019-20 academic year (June 1, 2019-May 31, 2020). This postdoctoral fellowship is offered in partnership with the Charles F. Kettering Foundation in Dayton, OH and involves some work at Kettering’s offices in Dayton as well as full-time employment at Tufts in the Boston area.

The Tisch College Civic Science Initiative, led by Dr. Jonathan Garlick, aims to reframe how key participants—scientists, the public, the media, institutions of higher education, and other stakeholders—can engage the national dialogue by:

  • Redefining the role of higher education in promoting science for the public good, by teaching skills that can transform science-based information into actionable civic knowledge
  • Redefining the role of the scientist in society by training scientists to implement a participatory approach that fosters an understanding of science as relevant and accessible
  • Redefining the national conversation on divisive and complex scientific issues to create a more inclusive exchange of ideas through dialogue that connects evidence-based science to our values, beliefs, and choices.
  • Developing courses and pedagogies designed to build civic capacities on complex and controversial science-based issues of societal consequence.
  • Civic Science is interdisciplinary, and this fellowship is open to a PhD in any relevant field.

The Postdoctoral Fellow will attend and participate in the Summer Institute of Civic Studies at Tisch College from June 20-28, 2019. He or she will conduct research related to Civic Science, both independently and in collaboration with Prof. Garlick and the Kettering Foundation. He or she will teach one course to undergraduates in the Civic Studies Major. The Fellow will attend orientation and research meetings at the Kettering Foundation as requested.

A scholar with a Ph.D. in any relevant discipline who is not yet tenured.

Application Instructions
Applications should include:

(1) a cover letter which includes a description of your research goals during the fellowship year and the courses you would like to offer;

(2) your CV;

(3) one writing sample;

(4) three letters of recommendation which should be uploaded by your recommenders to Interfolio directly; and

(5) teaching course evaluations, if available.

February 1, 2018 and will continue until the position is filled

Questions about the position should be addressed to Tisch College Academic Dean at

Non-Discrimination Statement

Our institution does not discriminate against job candidates on the basis of actual or perceived gender, gender identity, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, or religion.

Tufts University, founded in 1852, prioritizes quality teaching, highly competitive basic and applied research and a commitment to active citizenship locally, regionally and globally. Tufts University also prides itself on creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community. Current and prospective employees of the university are expected to have and continuously develop skill in, and disposition for, positively engaging with a diverse population of faculty, staff, and students. Tufts University is an Equal Opportunity/ Affirmative Action Employer. We are committed to increasing the diversity of our faculty and staff and fostering their success when hired. Members of underrepresented groups are welcome and strongly encouraged to apply. If you are an applicant with a disability who is unable to use our online tools to search and apply for jobs, please contact us by calling Johny Laine in the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) at 617.627.3298 or at Applicants can learn more about requesting reasonable accommodations at

See also: Cooperative Congressional Election Study and Tisch College of Civic Life: Postdoctoral Fellowship

Martin Luther King describes the activists for civil rights

On Sept. 10, 1961, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. published an op-ed in the New York Times entitled “The Time for Freedom has Come.” To the best of my knowledge, it is his most extensive description of the people who formed the Civil Rights Movement. It is neither an address to the movement nor a critique of broader social issues. It is an effort to characterize the movement’s participants for an audience that was presumably mostly white and not involved in civil rights activism (although I am sure the document also circulated within the movement).

It’s interesting that King never uses a noun like “activists” or “leaders” or “radicals” to name the people he writes about.* His topic in this article is “Negro youth,” “Negro students,” or “Negro collegians”–identities and social roles. Not all Black college student were activists (as King acknowledges), and certainly not all civil rights activists were college students. But King is interested in generalizing about members of an important social group. He believes they are characterized by “imagination and drive …, tamed by discipline and commitment”; by “maturity and dedication” along with “intensity and depth of … commitment.”

Their characteristic act is “self-sacrifice,” which is a leitmotif in King’s writing. To sacrifice something of value, in public, with clarity of conviction, is a weapon available to everyone, including the excluded.

To be so disciplined, so intense, and so eager to sacrifice sounds hard, and it is hard, but King emphasizes that “it is not a solemn life, for all its seriousness.” Humor and satire are common and useful in the movement. Participation also builds skills and dispositions that have value to the individual. King even suggests that the way to produce American workers who can “compete successfully with the young people of other lands, may be present in this new movement,” because of the way it builds “maturity.”

Throughout the article, King emphasizes the need for “both action and philosophical discussion.” He writes, “Knowledge and discipline are as indispensable as courage and self-sacrifice. … The movement therefore gives to its participants a double education–academic learning from books and classes, and life’s lessons from responsible participation in social action.”

Here we have a powerful statement that nonviolent political action can change the world (winning “spectacular and considerable” victories) while also enriching and ennobling the lives of the activists themselves. To accomplish that requires a combination of action and reflection, of passion and discipline, and it requires the joint effort of many people.

*Once, in passing, he calls them “participants in the movement.” See also the kind of sacrifice required in nonviolence; an exercise for Martin Luther King Day; Why Civil Resistance Works; no justice, no peace? (analyzing a quote from Dr. King)

game theory and the shutdown

In game theory, you model a real-world situation by simplifying it to depict a finite group of “players” who are defined by preferences and choices. You predict outcomes based on how these players will choose. The structure of the choice matters, e.g., Will they decide simultaneously or in turn? Once, or several times? (Here’s my argument that game theory is useful.)

In the case of the current shutdown, it seems that at least the following six players are relevant:

  • Donald Trump: He can choose at any time between the status quo (threatening to veto a continuing resolution, or CR, unless it includes money for a wall) or folding (saying that he would sign such a resolution). His decision-making process is simple: he does what he wants to do. He could, however, renege on a promise to sign a “clean” CR. He presumably wants: 1) the wall, 2) the ability to claim a victory, 3) higher instead of lower popularity, 4) strong support among Republican voters, to head off a primary, 5) economic growth, and 6) an outcome that will satisfy the actual opponents of immigration (who know that a wall won’t really help their cause). NB: these are not in order, because I am not sure how to rank them.
  • Chuck and Nancy: They can choose at any time between the status quo (supporting only a “clean” CR) or else folding (agreeing to fund the wall). Their decision-making process is complex since they are elected by caucuses full of diverse interests and values. They presumably want: 1) no wall, 2) a victory over Trump that is popular on the center-left, 3) Trump’s popularity to fall, 4) the Republican congressional caucuses to fracture, 5) federal workers to be paid, and 6) other policies, such as DACA, to pass. Again, these are not in order–maybe they want 6) most of all.
  • Mitch McConnell: He can choose at any time to propose a “clean” CR or some kind of win/win agreement, such as the wall plus DACA. He presumably wants: 1) this whole thing to go away, 2) conservatives in Kentucky to like him, 3) Republican Senators in diverse circumstances all to be reelected in 2020, and 4) his caucus to hang together.
  • Federal workers: They can choose at any time between the status quo (showing up to work without being paid) or some kind of civil resistance: massive absenteeism, a wildcat strike. Their decision-making is very complex. For instance, the National Border Patrol Council (a union) is right behind Trump, but perhaps its members aren’t. In general, federal workers presumably want: 1) to get paid. Their other interests–such as harming or else supporting Trump–vary.
  • Right-wing personalities and organizations: They can choose to put pressure on Trump or back off. They like the wall but differ in how much they like it. Many know that it wouldn’t actually reduce immigration and are dead-set against giving up a punitive immigration law in return for a wall that doesn’t work. But their opinions on that matter vary. They need not speak in unison, and perhaps it’s necessary to model them as several players. They presumably want: 1) less immigration, 2) symbolic manifestations of white nationalism, 3) Democrats and liberals to look bad, 4) their own audiences to stay loyal.
  • The people who are sampled in opinion polls: They can each say whether they blame Trump or the Democrats. Their decision-making process is individual choice followed by a pollster’s statistical aggregation. They want lots of things, but current polls suggest that the largest group wants: 1) no wall, 2) the government to reopen, and 3) the politicians to move onto other things. This is what they say, but the partisan heuristics with which they’d assess any specific outcome cannot be discounted.

I tend to think that Tyler Cowan is right that the federal workers will end this. Of course, their ability to act is much constrained by labor law, but they still have a range of tactics available to them. Mitch McConnell is the other player with a lot of clout–but bad options, which is why he isn’t playing so far.

The time dimension is crucial, since the status quo could be interrupted unpredictably by a disaster that needs a federal response, an economic crisis, a serious decline in Trump’s popularity, an erosion of public support for the Democrats, or a major distraction, such as a certain Special Council’s final report. Smart players must decide how to choose based on deep uncertainty about what happens next.

syllabus of Introduction to Civic Studies, spring 2019

I am about to start teaching Intro to Civic Studies with my colleague Erin Kelly. Here is our syllabus, minus the grading rules, office hours, etc.

January 17: Introduction: A case from the Pluralism project to spur discussion and raise questions about organizational types and purposes, disagreements about values, and how identities are involved.

January 22: A “feeling of personal responsibility for the world”

January 24: The citizen in a modern democracy

  • John Dewey, The Public and its Problems, Chapter 5, “Search for the Great Community.”

Problems of Collective Action

January 29: Elinor Ostrom and the Bloomington School

January 31: Ostrom Continued

  • Thomas Dietz, Nives Dolsak, Elinor Ostrom, and Paul C. Stern, “The Drama of the Commons” in Elinor Ostrom, ed., Drama of the Commons, pp. 3-26.
  • Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons, Ch. 1.

February 5: Ostrom Continued

February 7 and Feb 12 Social Capital

  • Robert D. Putnam, “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital,” Journal of Democracy 6:1, Jan 1995, 65-78
  • Robert D. Putnam, “Community-Based Social Capital and Educational Performance,” in Ravitch and Viteritti, eds., Making Good Citizens, pp. 58-95
  • Pierre Bourdieu, Forms of Capital, 1986 (excerpt)

Identifying Good Ends and Means

February 14: A Deliberation

  • Pre-read the Harvard Pluralism Project’s case entitled A Call to Prayer and be ready to discuss what the people of Hamtramck, MI should do.

First group assignment (a simulation) is due

 February 19: Habermas and Deliberative Democracy

  • Jürgen Habermas, “The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article,” New German Critique, 3 (1974), pp. 49-55
  • Lasse Thomassen, Habermas: A guide for the perplexed. A&C Black, 2010, pp. 63-96, 111-130.

February 26: Habermas Continued

  • Jürgen Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action (selection) 
  • Jürgen Habermas, Between Facts and Norms, pp. 17-23, 38-41

February 28:  The Conditions for Deliberation

  • Jürgen Habermas, Between Facts and Norms, pp. 359-379
  • Danielle E. Allen, Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship Since Brown, v. Board of Education, pp. TBA

Final draft of first paper due

March 12: John Rawls

  • John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, pp. 3-19, 52-57

March 14: Testimony and Empathy

  • Lynn Sanders, “Against Deliberation”
  • Emily McRae, “Empathy, Compassion, and ‘Exchanging Self and Other’ in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Ethics” for Handbook of Philosophy of Empathy (Routledge), edited by Heidi Maibom, 2017.

March 14: Midterm in class

March 15-25: Spring Break

Social Movements 

March 26: Social Movements 

  • Charles Tilly, “Social Movements, 1768-2004”
  • Marshall Ganz, “Why David Sometimes Wins: Strategic Capacity in Social Movements,” in Jeff Goodwin and James M. Jasper, Rethinking Social Movements: Structure, Meaning, and Emotion (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004) pp.177-98.

March 28: Exclusion and Identity

  • The Book of Nehemiah
  • Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.”
  • Steve Biko, “Black Consciousness and the Quest for True Humanity” 

Second group assignment due

April 2:

Identity and the Common Good

  • Lilla, Mark Lilla, “The End of Identity Politics,” The New York Times, Nov. 18, 2016
  • Todd Gitlin, “The Left Lost in Identity Politics,” Harpers, Sept. 1993 
  • Transcript of an encounter: Hillary Clinton and Julius Jones

April 4: Community Organizing

  • Saul Alinsky, Reveille for Radicals, 1946 (1969 edition), pp. 76-81; 85-88; 92-100, 132-5, 155-158.
  • Myles Horton and Paulo Freire, We Make the Road by Walking, pp. 115-138

April 9: Nonviolent Campaigns

  • Martin Luther King, Stride Toward Freedom, chapters 3, 4, and 5.
  • Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, chapters 1 and 2 

April 11: Impure Dissent

  • Tommie Shelby, Dark Ghettos, 38-48, 252-73

April 16, 18: Nonviolence (PL)

  • Bikhu Parekh, Gandhi, Chapter 4 (“Satyagraha”), pp. 51-62;
  • Gandhi, Satyagraha (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing Co., 1951), excerpts.

April 18: Gandhi continued (PL)

  • Gandhi, Notes, May 22, 1924 – August 15, 1924, in The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Electronic Book), New Delhi, Publications Division Government of India, 1999, 98 volumes, vol. 28, pp. 307-310
  • Timothy Garton Ash, “Velvet Revolution: The Prospects,” New York Review of Books, December 3, 2009 

The Person in Community

April 23: Civic Education: What all this means for what students should learn (EK)

  • Joel Westheimer and Joseph E. Kahne, “Educating the ‘Good Citizen’: Political Choices and Pedagogical Goals,” PS Online

Third group assignment due

April 25: Civic Studies at Tufts and Beyond

Draft of second paper due

May 7: Final paper due.

unveiling a systems map for k-12 civic education

This is a systems map for k-12 civic education, developed for the CivXNow coalition and intended to guide the coalition and its members and allies. You can explore it here and also drill down to a more complex underlying map here.

[Suggested citation: Peter Levine, Louise Dubé, and Sarah Shugars, “Civic Education Systems Map,” Medford, MA: Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life/CivXNow Coalition, 2018]

Why use systems-mapping to analyze an issue and guide a coalition?

Any coalition needs a strategy, and it must be …

  1. Sufficiently complex for the issue: There is rarely one root cause or one leverage point. Many factors matter, and some outcomes are also inputs or causes.
  2. Supported by the grassroots, not just organizational leaders: Members of the coalition’s organizations must support the plan and believe that people like them had a voice. It can’t just be designed by the apex leaders.
  3. Broadly engaging: There must be roles for many different kinds of organizations and people to play. It can’t be limited to levers that only a few groups can pull.
  4. Widely supported: It must win a degree of consensus. Majority support isn’t good enough. If substantial portions of the coalition disagree with the plan, they will peel away. They may not quit or complain, but they will refrain from actively supporting the coalition.

… but also …

  1. Coherent and concise: The plan can’t just be a list of what everyone already favors.

Traditional methods for accomplishing these goals included electing a steering committee who would draft a document and ask for a vote of organizations or their representatives. These methods never worked all that well and they seem obsolete now.

Building on network science, 100Kin10’s approach to mapping the Grand Challenges of the STEM teacher shortage, and other experiments (like those of the Democracy Fund), we invited more than 7,500 people to co-produce this system map for k-12 civic education. I believe the result meets the five criteria listed above.

Importantly, people were not asked to rank issues by importance or to vote on priorities. Instead, they were asked very specific analytical questions based on their experience of the world around them. From their answers, we derived a systems map that suggests high leverage points.

Although we originally asked about civic education in an open-ended way, it’s clear that most respondents were focused on the k-12 age range and on schools as venues. This means that the map is not about youth civic engagement in communities and social movements; the formal political system (voting rights, gerrymandering, campaigns); news and social media; higher education; or education beyond civics (e.g., who attends what kinds of schools).

I regard this focus as a strength. K-12 civics is a system that relates to other systems. Mapping everything is impossible and a distracting ideal. If your own focus is a neighbor of k-12 civics–say, youth organizing, or engagement in higher education–then this map may help you see how to connect to k-12 civics.

How to read the map

The circles or nodes represent circumstances that we should work to accomplish. You could think of them as goals. An arrow connects two circles if improving the first would help improve the second. Larger nodes have more connections. Larger arrows suggest that the causal connections are stronger or clearer. Click on any node to read more about it. Hover over any node or arrow to see its immediate neighbors.

Each node combines more specific components, and those are displayed on the more complex map.

The whole point of a systems map is to avoid a simple distinction between inputs and outputs, causes and effects. Effects tend to influence causes. However, it would be reasonable to read the main map as basically flowing downward from the key leverage points, via intermediaries, to the widely-shared goals of youth civic knowledge and youth civic engagement.

Findings and how to use the map

The components that are furthest upstream and may have the most influence–without themselves being influenced by many factors shown on the map–include the public’s commitment to civics and schools’ embrace of their civic missions, the degree to which civics is relevant and engaging, and policies at the state and federal level that require and/or assess civics.

Factors that are midstream–being affected by other factors and directly boosting youth outcomes–include professional development, engaging pedagogy, inclusion of current and contentious issues, and funding specifically for civics.

Some factors are shown as not highly connected to the rest of the network–notably, “Civics is taught well in a context of political polarization and bias” and “Civic life is healthy.” This does not mean that these factors are unimportant. You could reasonably think that they are essential. The map suggests that they don’t have a lot of leverage over other factors. For instance, navigating bias may be essential, but the map suggests that it doesn’t lead to more funding, or assessments, or better materials.

A use case: A colleague noted that his state has chosen civically engaged youth as its goal. The portion of the map shown below presents a subsystem of relevance to him and his colleagues. It suggests that it’s essential for schools to make civic education more of a priority. One (but only one) reason is that schools and systems that care more about civics will allocate more funding specifically for it. There are relationships among youth knowledge of civics, youth civic engagement, and civics that addresses current controversies. In other words, kids learn content and are energized if they address current issues in school. It’s also important that schools be effective and fair institutions, although that may feel beyond the control of the civics field.

If our colleague wants to know how to encourage schools in his state to embrace their civic mission, he could click on that node (at the top of this illustration) to see its causes in turn.

More generally, the map can be used for:

  • Insight: Perhaps it was not already evident that these factors relate in this way. The map may offer insight.
  • Diagnosis: The map poses diagnostic questions. How strongly do the schools in your community embrace their civic missions? To what extent do students discuss contested current issues? Do these factors improve as a result of your efforts?
  • Support: No self-appointed committee decided that these factors are related in the ways shown above. The diagram emerged from more than 7,500 people’s careful assessments of specific empirical questions. That is a basis for advising relevant decision-makers on how to act.

What if you disagree?

I find myself broadly in sync with this diagram. But what if you don’t see the ideas or connections that matter most to you on the map?

  1. It’s worth zooming to the more complex map to see if they are there. On that detailed map, you can click buttons to identify all the factors that may be especially relevant if you have a particular take on civic education, such as Action Civics, a social justice orientation, a concern for civil discourse in and out of schools, or a focus on original texts and US history. (Note that these emphases are not mutually exclusive–I happen to endorse them all.) The ideas on the simpler main map are relatively content-neutral, and debates about content appear when you zoom in closer. I think that is appropriate. For instance, if we provide professional development (PD) for civics, then we can discuss what teachers should learn. There will be some healthy debates about that question, as well as some consensus and some room for pluralism and individual choice. But if very little PD is available for civics, then the debate about content is a bit empty. Thus PD goes on the main map, and what teachers should learn is explored on the more detailed map.
  2. Your focus might be on a different “system,” such as electoral politics or higher ed. Then the disclaimer about our focus on k-12 schools applies.
  3. You may be right, and the bulk of the 7,500 respondents may be wrong. In that case, the data suggest that you have some persuasion to do, and maybe you should build or publicize a pilot or demonstration program that supports your point. One definition of social entrepreneurship is filling perceived gaps in existing systems. Social entrepreneurship begins by analyzing mainstream views of an existing system (as our map does), identifying gaps, and addressing them.

The method

We first fielded a survey to identify possible causal factors. We recruited 6,495 respondents through a variety of networks. Twenty-one percent of the respondents were k-12 civics teachers; nine percent worked for organizations that address civics; five percent were current k-12 students; two percent were adult civic educators who don’t work in K-12 classrooms; and the sample also included people with many other relationships to civics, including parents who are not teachers, academic experts, funders, and policymakers.

The sample was not demographically representative of youth. Even compared to adult Americans, it tilted whiter (79%) and older (mean age 47)–as do classroom teachers. I acknowledge this as a limitation, but I would add that we never counted the number of votes for any particular idea. We used this survey to brainstorm issues, and it didn’t matter how many people named any given issue. Therefore, the most important question is whether there were significant numbers of young people and people of color to get their issues on the agenda. In fact, 289 people were under age 18, 230 were African American, 262 were Latinx, 122 were Asian, and 78 were Native American.

We used a modified version of the 5 Whys method, first developed by Toyota’s engineers. A core question on our survey was, “Do you think that we provide good enough civic education in the USA today?”

Thirteen percent believed that civics is satisfactory as it is, and they were asked to elaborate. The rest thought that we do not provide adequate civics. They were asked why not: “Now we ask you to think about an underlying cause of that problem. What is an important reason that civics needs improvement?” They gave open-ended responses to that question. Then each respondent was shown his or her own answer and asked to explain that problem. “Now we’d like you to go even deeper. Why is this? Why do you think this happens?” We continued this process until we had more than 12,600 open-ended ideas about the causes of inadequate civics, including 2,800 responses that were five layers “deep.”

As people went deeper, they often began to cite very broad, possibly intractable problems, such as public apathy or an unresponsive political system. Some mentioned political polarization, but more named the left or the right as a harmful influence. The 5 Whys focuses on problems, and pushing respondents four or five levels deep tended to uncover a fair amount of frustration and polarization.

Our next task was to turn these 12,600 responses (including very few precise duplicates) into a much smaller set of factors that would capture the diversity of respondents’ views. Furthermore, we wanted to turn problem statements into levers for positive change. Instead of a list of problems, we wanted a list of specific goals that a coalition could work on.

For example, these are actual statements from the first survey (and there were many more like them):

  • “STEM is seen as more important”
  • “There is such an emphasis on testing, science and math, that civics is not emphasized enough.”
  • “Emphasis on science & math leads to cuts in time for other subjects.”
  • “In overemphasizing STEM, we have neglected all the arts (including history and civics).”

We translated all of these ideas into one phrase that summarizes a possible goal: “the number of people who view social studies as just as important as STEM increases.” We also wrote a second goal statement that captured related ideas: “the proportion of adults who believe that stem and civics can go together increases.”

To reduce the full list of 12,600 problem statements to 75 such goal statements, we used a combination of Natural Language Processing (which automatically puts text into clusters) and human coding and judgment. We omitted no original response because we disagreed with it or deemed it beyond the scope of our coalition. For example, someone wrote, “Civic education in most colleges and universities have socialist and marxist educators that use their time to indoctrinate and they do not educate.” Someone else wrote, “Since No Child Left Behind (created by George W. Bush to help his brother Neil’s testing industry biz) our politicians have seen education funding as an opportunity to make money.” We collapsed these comments, and many more like them, into two goals for consideration: “right-wing influence on civics decreases” and “left-wing influence on civics decreases.”

Then we fielded a second survey, drawing mostly on the same respondents. In this survey, respondents were shown 15 pairs of randomly selected possible goals, one pair at time. For each pair, they were asked (in effect) whether A causes B to increase, whether A causes B to decrease, and whether causing B to increase would be a good thing or not. Here is an example of an actual item:

I chose A, but that is a matter of judgment. I could see an argument for C, or even a tenuous case for B or D. If such questions had obvious answers, we wouldn’t need a collaborative process. Our method is to ask multiple people to share their best judgment about pairings like this one, based on their own experience.

If 75 factors can be linked to one another in either direction (A causes B and/or B causes A), there are 10,100 possible links. We recruited 1,825 people to take this survey (of whom 1,057 had also taken the first one). Each pair of nodes was reviewed at least three times and sometimes more than ten times. Once a link had been reviewed many times, we deleted it from the survey to channel responses to the pairs that had been randomly overlooked so far.

We treated a possible link as actual if 90% of the raters or at least 9 raters considered it a positive causal link. About 80% of the possible edges had some support as real causal connections; and 18% reached the 90% threshold. This produced a map that is too complex to guide action, although it’s perhaps an accurate reflection of the actual topic. It is the map shown here.

To simplify it, we clustered the 75 nodes conceptually. Two raters compared schemata and resolved differences to produce 14 nodes for the main map. We also asked 12 representatives of state education agencies gathered at a meeting to make their own clusterings and used their ideas to inform us. The best measure of inter-rater reliability when you have many raters and open-ended codes is Krippendorff’s alpha, which was fairly low, but that appears to be because many of the state representatives did not get around to categorizing most of the 75 ideas at all. There is certainly some subjectivity involved in our clustering, but we are transparent about the components of each cluster.

The maps also indicate which ideas were controversial, in the sense that some people thought these outcomes would be bad. The rate of controversy was never high–usually under 5%. However, this may be an underestimate, because if raters saw no causal link at all between two nodes, they couldn’t indicate that either of the nodes was bad.

an expert class and the grassroots

(Menlo Park, CA) Here I am at Facebook, posting on Facebook. I’m with about 160 other people, and we’re having a valuable conversation about how to measure and assess civic education. (The space is leant to us by Facebook, but the organizers, CivXNow, are fully independent from Facebook.)

The participants bring highly diverse expertise, professional backgrounds, and opinions of relevant topics–from the nature of a good citizen to the appropriate role of testing. They are somewhat diverse racially and culturally, but much less so than the nation or our nation’s students. They are the kinds of people who can get their flights to California reimbursed from an organization’s budget, who can put titles on their name tags, and who can be asked to address specific issues as experts. Even if they perfectly represented America’s students and parents in terms of race and ethnicity, they would be sociologically different. This is a slice of the professional class.

Speakers have named that problem, as they should. Any group concerned with enhancing democracy should ask whether it is operating democratically. Democratic values include representation, voice, and accountability. If a bunch of adults with titles on their name tags talk about kids, they do not represent youth, give youth voice, or make themselves accountable to youth.

But I think it’s important to be realistic about the challenge. A defining feature of modernity–possibly the defining feature–is specialization. In socialist and capitalist societies alike, roles are differentiated and assigned to people who demonstrate and build specialized experience and training over years. Per Wikipedia, Max Weber’s definition of a “bureaucracy” is:

  • hierarchical organization
  • formal lines of authority
  • a fixed area of activity
  • rigid division of labor
  • regular and continuous execution of assigned tasks
  • all decisions and powers specified and restricted by regulations
  • officials with expert training in their fields
  • career advancement dependent on technical qualifications
  • qualifications evaluated by organizational rules, not individuals

Some successful organizations avoid the narrowest versions of these characteristics. For instance, they don’t divide tasks too “rigidly.” But they all do some of the above, and for an important reason: it works. Specialization, formal lines of authority, expertise and training all improve efficiency.

Because bureaucracy (within appropriate limits) boosts efficiency, it also confers power. People in organizations are more powerful than amorphous masses of people. A conference of representatives of organizations has more influence than a gathering of representative citizens would have. Apart from anything else, it can interlock with other bureaucratic systems, from state agencies to Facebook. But it must be demographically unrepresentative of the people it intends to help, at least in terms of age, employment, and educational attainment. Maybe Robert Michels exaggerated when he observed an Iron Law of Oligarchy, but if it’s not a law, it’s a strong tendency.

There is also power in grassroots politics, social movements, mass meetings, viral media campaigns, and the like. In fact, the people can swamp a Weberian bureaucracy. But popular politics is very different from organizational networking.

At our best, I think we can blur some of these boundaries. (For instance, there are a few eloquent and impressive k-12 students at this meeting.) We can cross boundaries in our own lives and careers, spending some time in settings where we are not experts or leaders, even if we wear name tags with impressive titles in other settings. We can morph from organizations to movements and back. And we can develop new methods for engaging grassroots publics in our organizations’ work. (This survey is an example.) But we shouldn’t kid ourselves that social change occurs without organizations or that organizational leaders can be truly representative of the public.

See also: who must be included in which meetings, committees, and movements?; Nicole Doerr, Political Translation: How Social Movement Democracies Survive; the rise of an expert class and its implications for democracy; and what gives some research methods legitimacy?