HPU’s Democracy USA Project Responds to a National Call to Action
High Point University recently awarded its Think BIG Grant – the University’s most prestigious faculty grant award – to the Democracy USA Project. The Project is an interdisciplinary and experiential learning exercise that draws together over 20 faculty, nine courses, and 300 students with civic engagement opportunities that range from voter registration drives and teaching citizenship classes to nearly 200 students traveling to either the Republican or Democratic National Conventions. Students will be engaged in teaching each other across disciplines through large colloquium meetings, and they will also be blogging, researching, and filming a reality TV show about their experiences at the conventions and election-related events. The Democracy USA Project is committed to extending the college education from the classroom into the community and in the formation of critical thinking, civic-minded students.
The Democracy USA Project represents HPU’s robust response to the national call to action commissioned by the US Department of Education and titled A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future. Written by the National Task Force in Civic Engagement and Democratic Education and published in cooperation with the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the call to action was publically presented at the White House in January 2012. It calls on colleges and universities to resist the over-professionalization of collegiate education and reclaim the mission of colleges and universities to teach citizens to think critically so they can be active participants in a vibrant democracy.
The trouble the United States faces, according to Charles Quigley, the executive director of the Center for Civic Education, is that we are in a “civic recession.” Over a decade ago, Robert Putnam raised the alarm in Bowling Alone about our sharply declining ability to work with others across differences, to build “bridging capital.” And still, as the recent report Guardian of Democracy suggests, the nation’s schools remain focused on preparing students for college and careers, with little emphasis left on forming democratic citizens. But getting a job and being a good citizen are not mutually exclusive ends to a college education. High Point University is committed to developing the skills in our students that allow them to both excel in their professions and contribute to their communities. By awarding the $50,000 Think BIG Grant to The Democracy USA Project, HPU seeks to further its mission to engage students in educational experiences that enlighten, challenge, and prepare them to lead lives of significance in complex global communities.