Civic Education Pays Off

David Hoffman is UMBC’s assistant director of student life for civic agency.

David HoffmanIn a time of limited resources, why is it important to support higher education as a seedbed for democracy and civic engagement? Earlier this month, Peter Levine, a professor at Tufts University and director of CIRCLE, The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, offered this answer to college presidents and other higher education leaders in North Carolina.

The perspective Levine shared appears to differ from the philosophy behind BreakingGround in some of its nuances: He doesn’t place as much emphasis on creativity, innovation and personal agency, and he spotlights engagement with external communities but not engagement within the campus community. Yet many of Levine’s ideas align directly with BreakingGround’s vision of integrating work and civic engagement, classroom and experiential education, and campus and community. Levine argues that

 … civic education is not an alternative to educating people for good jobs—it is an essential means to address unemployment–and also gun violence and a host of other really serious issues. These problems have in common that they could not be solved by any simple and available policy reform. They will take lots of people’s ideas, labor, and relationships to address.

Levine’s entire argument is well worth a read.

Contact the author, David Hoffman, at

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