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Reclaiming the democratic purposes of American higher education

Tracing the trajectory of the civic engagement movement

Matthew Hartley

American colleges and universities have historically sought to promote an enlightened citizenry. In the early 1980s many felt that this civic purpose was in danger of being lost. What unfolded was a widespread educational reform movement aimed at reasserting the public and democratic purpose of American higher education. This article traces the trajectory of this movement and notes a significant emergent tension among movement members - the question of whether to seek broad-based legitimacy within the academy by aligning the efforts with disciplinary norms or to challenge the status quo and attempt to transform higher education and align its efforts with the pressing needs of America's democracy.

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Jeffrey L. Bernstein

What are we in higher education to make of the recent calls for citizenship education to play a larger role in the academy? As Matt Hartley’s paper in this issue of Learning and Teaching suggests, colleges and universities in the United States have been paying increased attention to educating for citizenship in recent decades; Bob Simpson’s concluding commentary makes similar arguments about increased expectations for citizenship education in Europe. As our institutions of higher learning confront economic pressures, increased competition (including from for-profit entities) and calls for accountability through meaningful assessments of student learning, they will also face increased pressure to graduate not just educated individuals, but also individuals who are connected, as citizens, to the local, national and transnational world in which they live.

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Mariano González-Delgado and Manuel Ferraz-Lorenzo

This article explains the approach to mass consumption developed in social studies textbooks in the early years of the transition to democracy in Spain. It begins by examining the way in which school textbooks represented consumer society and mass media in the late 1970s. This is followed by an in-depth explanation of the reasons that led the authors of these textbooks to choose one theoretical framework over another. Above all, this article emphasizes the complexity and variety of the historical materials used to represent consumer society, and how this process of social construction is reflected in the textbook content of the time.

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Meglio di ieri

Educational Films, National Identity and Citizenship in Italy from 1948 to 1968

Anne Bruch

established in 1951 by a service order signed by the Honorable Umberto Tupini, the Undersecretary of the Presidency of the Council. Tupini adopted President De Gasperi’s message in favor of spreading and developing the idea of a democratic nation; the aim was

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Nancy L. Thomas

Across the U.S.A, everyday citizens, civic leaders, policy makers, and educators are experimenting with inclusive, deliberative approaches to addressing social, economic, and political issues. Some academics and civic leaders describe this renewal in citizen engagement as a movement, a significant, transformative shift in the way we interact with each other to solve public problems, strengthen communities and 'do' democracy. Colleges and universities need to take stock of the movement towards a more deliberative democracy and adapt their programmes and activities to fit what democratic societies need today. Many campuses already offer programmes in inclusive dialogue, deliberative public reasoning, justice and other Constitutional values, democratic leadership and conflict management. Many faculty members use democratic teaching methods. These can serve as helpful models. For all colleges and universities, the challenge is to get to scale, to teach all students - not just a few in particular disciplines or co-curricular activities - to serve as effective citizens in an increasingly diverse, deliberative democracy.

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Laura Louise Sarauw

Critics often see the European Bologna Process as a univocal standardisation of higher education. By exploring how different qualifications frameworks project different social imaginaries of globalisation, this article takes a different stance. The overarching qualifications framework of the Bologna Process rests on a socially constituted and contested concept of globalisation as a change towards a more diverse and unforeseeable world, which calls for the development of flexible, lifelong learners with a broad knowledge base and strong democratic competencies. Although this social imaginary is widely known, I argue that it is also highly contested. For example, the Danish qualifications framework of 2003 projects a social imaginary of globalisation as a change towards a smaller and more predictable world, which enables a novel and more efficient alignment of the curriculum towards specific professional needs, and where the development of a broad knowledge base and democratic competencies are no longer prioritised.

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Queer Sensations

Postwar American Melodrama and the Crisis of Queer Juvenility

Cael Keegan

This essay analyzes the cinematic genre convention of the “sensation scene” as a vehicle for the representation of queer crises in American juvenility during the postwar era. Through popular cinema, post-WWII America organized and communicated concerns about the production of “fit” masculine and heterosexual juveniles who would be capable of carrying out the postwar expansion of American democratic and capitalist ideologies. The sensation scene was deployed by popular films to mark queer and racialized masculinities in an aesthetic system that mirrored institutional efforts to prevent “unfit” juveniles from accessing the benefits of full social and political participation. Today, the genre device continues to structure popular film representations of and common thinking about the relative value of young, male American lives.

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Gudrun Willett

In a three-year ethnographic study of a selective U.S. liberal arts college, it was found that educational development efforts contributed not only to changes in teaching but also to cross-college collaboration and the development of a sense of community. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the college created a learning centre and new educational development activities that spoke to faculty members' needs and college interests. Following these changes, increased collegiality could be seen in collaborations among college employees, and in the educational development activities themselves, resulting in increased interest in educational development. These institutional changes were only made possible because of the college's relatively democratic governance structure, relatively high levels of faculty members' power on campus, and an environment in which ideas and practices could be challenged and re-conceptualised (at least by some employees). Ultimately, this paper argues for more attention to the interrelationships between campus collegiality, teaching and learning, and power in institutions of higher education.

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What Stories Are Being Told?

Two Case Studies of (Grand) Narratives from and of the German Democratic Republic in Current Oberstufe Textbooks

Elizabeth Priester Steding

Much like history textbooks, literature textbooks produce a grand narrative, telling a nation's story via its literature. This article examines the presentation of literature of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in upper level secondary school (Oberstufe) textbooks published in Germany in 2009 and 2010. Twenty years after German unification, literature textbooks are largely divided into two groups in accordance with their handling of literature from the failed socialist state: some focus on ideological criticism of the GDR, and some choose to avoid politics as much as possible. Both options result in a simplistic, even reductionist (grand) narrative of GDR literature. Case studies on Christa Wolf and Günter Grass reveal a consistent, positive portrayal of West German literature and a polarized representation of GDR literature.

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Bob Simpson

What are the civic responsibilities of universities in a democratic society? Since the emergence of the modern university system in the nineteenth century, financial support and a degree of academic freedom have been bestowed on universities but what should society expect back from these places of specialised and, often, elite learning? These are perennial questions, yet answers have been very different under different political and economic circumstances. Originally, the emphasis was on the production of knowledge in settings that were ‘antifunctionalist as well as antiutilitarian’ (Sahlins 2009: 1000); subsequently the wider knowledgeability of students was incorporated as the way the debt to society would be repaid (Nowotny, Scott and Gibbons 2001: 80). In recent years, the making of citizens or, rather, the making of better citizens has come to the fore as an essential output in exchange for society’s input. As part of their ‘service’ to society at large, universities will, amongst other things, produce people who will take their place as members of society with a strong sense of rights that will be asserted and responsibilities that will be exercised.