|Now Available! An APSA new publication, Teaching Civic Engagement Globally, is the result of collaborative work spanning scholars from multiple disciplines, fields, and careers. Political scientists, educators, and students have joined to produce important, timely research.|
by Taiyi Sun, Christopher Newport University
While teaching civic engagement is intrinsically suitable to democratic regimes and their norms, similar curricula could face tremendous obstacles when being taught in authoritarian countries. How could we teach civic engagement in authoritarian states? This chapter discusses the “imported model” by analyzing the experiences of implanting civic education pedagogy into mainland China. The case study of SEED for Social Innovation – an NGO the author co-founded in 2012 – that first brought Chinese trainees to the U.S. and then subsequently took the curricula to China, is utilized to capture the importing process. Quasi-experimental data comparing the effects of teaching the curriculum in the U.S. and China measuring trust, norms of reciprocity, and willingness for civic engagement is also analyzed.
This chapter argues that when faced with institutional constraints in authoritarian countries, one could still successfully teach civic engagement by training individuals who are grounded in their own cultures and are willing to travel to study civic educations and the pedagogy in democratic cultures.
Using these individuals as anchors and through turning the trainees into trainers, successful pedagogical models of civic engagement could be grounded even within an authoritarian context. Framing “teaching civic engagement” as academic activities while collaborating with prestigious educational institutions would provide legitimacy and reduce political risk; collaborating with domestic foundations and philanthropists could make the imported model more sustainable economically; assembling local civic engagement best practices could further localize the foreign experiences. The experimental data assessing participants’ willingness to civically engage also reveals that the interventions have as much impact in the workshops conducted in China as those in the U.S.
About Teaching Civic Engagement Globally
Educators around the globe are facing challenges in teaching politics in an era in which populist values are on the rise, authoritarian governance is legitimized, and core democratic tenets are regularly undermined. To combat anti-democratic outcomes and citizens’ apathy, Teaching Civic Engagement Globally provides a wide range of pedagogical tools to help the current generation learn to effectively navigate debates and lead changes in local, national, and global politics. Contributors discuss key theoretical discussions and challenges regarding global civic engagement education, highlight successful evidence-based pedagogical approaches, and review effective ways to reach across disciplines and the global education community.