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Education, civic responsibility, civic engagement, higher education






Once again, the times demand that higher education play a transformative role. The full range of our disciplines can and must combine to make a difference. As Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution has observed, the Great Recession “has unveiled an economy dangerously out of whack, frenzied with consumption, wasteful in its use of energy, more adept at increasing inequity than sharing prosperity.” In such a world, as Martha Nussbaum wrote this month, the future of democracy itself will depend on our ability to educate “complete citizens who can think for themselves, criticize tradition, and understand the significance of another person’s sufferings and achievements.” It’s true that we must have technology, science, commerce, and innovation, but they are not sufficient, in and of themselves. They must be embedded in a humanistic landscape that fully accounts for culture, history, and difference, and that strives to reduce inequality, spread opportunity, and strengthen community. As Harry Boyte recalled several years ago in a lecture at the University of Michigan, it was John Dewey who said that, “Democracy must be reborn in each generation. Education is the midwife.”

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Keynote address delivered at the Association of American Colleges and Universities Conference on Faculty Roles in High-Impact Practices, March 25, 2010.


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