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American Democracy, Education, and Utopianism

by Eamonn Callan - 2008

In this chapter Eamonn Callan updates the conversation about American civic education begun by Diane Ravitch in chapter three. Ravitch described the centuries-old struggle for civic education between those who wished to educate youth for their appropriate role in a democratic state (e.g., Webster) and those who aimed to foster a citizenry that could exercise their civic freedom and decide their own individual and collective futures (e.g., Jefferson). Drawing on recent empirical research, Callan describes a contemporary voting public bereft of fundamental political knowledge—and lacking in motivation to remedy their ignorance. Indeed, many people seem to believe that the “common good” is so obvious to all that the public arena is simply a space where private interests compete for the spoils of power. The resulting political vacuum is consequently vulnerable to being filled by a political elite, deciding for a deferential citizenry whose role is reduced to “ensuring through elections an orderly transfer of power among rival groups among the elite."

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This article originally appeared as NSSE Yearbook Vol 107. No. 1.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 110 Number 13, 2008, p. 74-82
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 18449, Date Accessed: 8/13/2020 2:20:03 PM

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About the Author
  • Eamonn Callan
    Stanford University
    E-mail Author
    EAMONN CALLAN is Pigott Family Professor in the School of Education at Stanford University. He is a graduate of the National University of Ireland and the University of Alberta. He taught for many years at the University of Alberta before moving to Stanford in 1999. He is the author of Autonomy and Schooling (1988) and Creating Citizens (1997). He is a philosopher whose interests include multiculturalism, civic education, and immigration.
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