Integrating Civic Engagement Into Scholarly Reward Systems

Integrating Civic Engagement Into Scholarly Reward Systems

By Karen M. Kedrowski, Iowa State University

According to the American Democracy Project (2021), the definition of “civic engagement” is “working together to make a difference in the civic life of our communities.” This includes nonpolitical activities (e.g., volunteerism) and political engagement (e.g., voting and activism). Both are important to a healthy government and civil society. Because political scientists extensively study democracies worldwide, we know what productive citizen engagement looks like. Yet, many scholars are concerned about the state of American democracy. Too often, the decades-long emphasis on math and science education has forced out civics from the K–12 curriculum (Shapiro and Brown 2018; Winthrop 2020), with frightening results. According to the Annenberg Public Policy (2020) survey, most Americans have significant gaps in their civic knowledge. Moreover, too many Americans are duped by false information that spreads online and through social media (Wineberg et al. 2016). The lack of civic knowledge and the attractiveness of false conspiracy theories contributed to the widespread, erroneous belief that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent as well as the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.