Theme Panel: This Sh*t Is Hard: Teaching Civic Engagement in an Era of Divisive Politics

This Sh*t Is Hard: Teaching Civic Engagement in an Era of Divisive Politics

Co-sponsored by TLC at APSA

(Chair) Carah Ong Whaley, James Madison Center for Civic Engagement, James Madison University; (Presenter) Elizabeth A. Bennion, Indiana University South Bend; (Presenter) Lauren Cohen Bell, Randolph-Macon College; (Presenter) J. Cherie Strachan, Virginia Commonwealth University; (Presenter) Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan, University of South Florida

Session Description:

The erosion of democratic norms, institutions and values, both in the U.S. and globally, decline of faith in political institutions, and increasingly violent and divisive political climates in the United States and around the world raise many questions about the state of political learning and civic engagement. How can political science contribute to building the agency of students to address the most pressing challenges facing democracy and society by leaning into politics? What are intentional innovative practices political science can contribute to institutional approaches to educating for democracy?

In this roundtable, political science faculty will discuss how they are addressing an array of institutional and contextual challenges to political learning and civic engagement. They will  discuss where civic engagement work is happening and where it SHOULD be happening on campuses, as well as the benefits to higher education of our political learning and civic engagement work.

Panelists will also share how faculty can approach pedagogy and praxis. As state legislatures are increasingly imposing or seeking to impose restrictions on teaching and learning, panelists will interrogate how faculty and staff should think about what risks they are willing to take and what tradeoffs they should consider in making evaluations to take on political issues in the classroom or through campus-wide initiatives. With the rise in extreme politics and political violence, panelists will also address what faculty can do to prepare students to respond to escalating threats and violence. Participants will also reflect on how they conduct political discourse that accommodates different beliefs and promotes free inquiry and free speech while minimizing harmful rhetoric that makes students, especially women and students of color, feel unsafe in the classroom and on campus.

Karen Kedrowski at Iowa State University wrote in the March 2022 PS Spotlight that APSA leadership should continue to promote civic engagement as a disciplinary priority and to develop best practices, rewards, and recognition for departments to use to integrate civic engagement work specifically into their tenure and promotion documents. Panelists will offer insights into how faculty and staff build a portfolio for tenure and promotion that creates synergy between research, teaching, and service.

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