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Civic Education

igavigan's picture

Levinson's introduction to No Citizen Left Behind as left me with a number of exciting ideas about what a truly civic education might look like. I am especially struck by her argument that those things which require change are not simply educational content--although that is obviously crucial, and she valuably points to histories of ordinary people making change as powerful alternatives to traditional histories of "great men"--but also are the very structure of the learning environment. I sense that Levinson's idea that the entire school community, at least, or perhaps especially, among "students from historically marginalized communities should be taught both codeswitching and solidaristic collective action as means of exercising civic and political power both within and outside the system" (55) is both radical and entirely accurate. I think we might want to trouble or think deeply about what solidarity means--but in general teaching through doing, through the doing of something like community organizing, among students--combined with lessons and a culture of discussion (dialogues, to mention Freire & Shor)--seems to me like a much more winning strategy than something more conservative (although still progressive in its own of) such as writing the subaltern into history textbooks that, through their presentation and the larger arc of their history, fail to challenge the structures of action, politics, and civic feeling that in part produce the situations of inequality with which many people must live.