A new report from the National Association of Scholars warns against the rise of what it calls “new civics” and recommends that legislators mandate a course in “traditional” American civics as a graduation requirement at all colleges and universities that receive public funding. “What we call the ‘new civics’ redefines civics as progressive political activism,” reads the 525-page report. “Rooted in the radical program of the 1960s’ New Left, the new civics presents itself as an up-to-date version of volunteerism and good works. Though camouflaged with soft rhetoric, the new civics, properly understood, is an effort to repurpose higher education.”
The report says that the alleged movement, above all, seeks to make students “enthusiastic supporters” of the “New Left’s dream of ‘fundamentally transforming’ America,” including by “decarbonizing the economy, massively redistributing wealth, intensifying identity group grievance, curtailing the free market, expanding government bureaucracy, elevating international ‘norms’ over American constitutional law and disparaging our common history and ideals.” The report asserts that “service learning” initiatives at colleges seek to teach students that a “good citizen is a radical activist, and it puts political activism at the center of everything that students do in college, including academic study, extracurricular pursuits and off-campus ventures.” By “rebranding itself as ‘civic engagement,’” the report continues, “service learning succeeded in capturing nearly all the funding that formerly supported the old civics. In practice this means that instead of teaching college students the foundations of law, liberty, and self-government, colleges teach students how to organize protests, occupy buildings and stage demonstrations. These are indeed forms of ‘civic engagement,’ but they are far from being a genuine substitute for learning how to be a full participant in our republic.”
Beyond the traditional civics requirement, the report recommends establishing a public body to set the guidelines and review and approve textbooks for the courses, “which should at a minimum teach the history, nature and functions of our institutions of self-government, and which should aim to foster commitment to our form of self-government.” The association asks that the requirement be met only through classroom instruction and that public funding for service learning and civic engagement programs be terminated.
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