Citizenship Under Siege

Citizenship Under Siege

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“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice. . .”  So begins the Preamble to the US Constitution.  But who is recognized as belonging to “We the People,” not just legally with full rights and responsibilities, but also in terms of culture, language, and recognized identities?  And if granted citizenship by law, can one fully practice it if curtailed by economic inequality or by racism?  Who is entitled to be seen as an American citizen is still entangled with issues of social justice, race, religious belief, property, wealth, national origins, gender, language, and ethnicity.

In an age of fractious differences about this topic when finding common ground seems elusive, The Democracy Commitment (TDC) and The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&C) have joined with seven TDC community colleges to orchestrate a series of public forums each with accompanying programs and educational resources to bridge the rifts.

Organized under the common theme, Citizenship Under Siege and supported by a grant from The National Endowment for the Humanities, the events are framed through the powerful historic, ethical, and narrative lenses of the humanities.  We believe this tapestry of forums underscores how the humanities still are “the heart of the matter, the keeper of the republic—a source of national memory and civic vigor, cultural understanding and communication, individual fulfillment, and the ideals we hold in common” (American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 2013, 9).


Program Goals

Tailored to issues of importance to their local communities, the public forums will explore critical questions about citizenship such as:

  • What historic struggles for full social justice, democratic rights, and recognition can illuminate a way through contemporary logjams over issues about citizenship, who belongs, and who should get full citizenship rights?
  • How can the humanities provide fresh understandings for our contemporary context of key principles and values embedded in our founding documents: equality, individual dignity, opportunity, liberty, and public happiness?
  • How can the humanities with their powers of narrative and imagination illuminate the human drama behind these political debates: the yearning, struggle, humiliation, resilience, despair, and triumph?
  • How can the humanities contribute to the constructive practice of democratic engagement across multiple differences in background and world view especially in the face of suspicion, mistrust, vulnerability, ignorance, and polarization?

Participating Community Colleges Include:

City University Kingsborough Community College, New York

Forum:  Citizenship Under Siege: Promoting Religious Pluralism and Inclusive Citizenship

Middlesex Community College, Massachusetts

Forum:  Citizenship Under Siege: A Culture in Transition

County College of Morris, New Jersey

Forum:  Citizenship Under Siege: Stratified Citizenship

Lone Star College, Texas

Forum:  Citizenship Under Siege: The Effects of Income Inequality

Santa Fe College, Florida

Forum:  Citizenship Under Siege: Stratified Citizenship in Florida

Mount Wachusett Community College, Massachusetts

Forum:  Citizenship Under Siege: Degrees of Citizenship

Miami Dade College, Florida

Forum:  Citizenship Under Siege: Democracy for All?


Fall 2016 Webinar Series:

The Democracy Commitment (TDC) will also host a series of webinars that will provide educational resources on how to organize public forums that offer a way to discuss these critical questions about citizenship and wrestle with associated hard choices and different viewpoints.  Click Here For More Info.

Clashes Over Citizenship:  Promoting Listening, Learning, and Engagement


Additionally, AAC&U will devote a special issue of its quarterly Diversity & Democracy to serve as a print and online resource about how the humanities can provide content, process, and perspectives on these contentious debates and how others might replicate public forums on their own campuses with local communities.

Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and hosted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities & The Democracy Commitment.

About AAC&U

AAC&U is the leading national association concerned with the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises more than 1,300 member institutions—including accredited public and private colleges, community colleges, research universities, and comprehensive universities of every type and size.

AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, and faculty members who are engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Its mission is to reinforce the collective commitment to liberal education and inclusive excellence at both the national and local levels, and to help individual institutions keep the quality of student learning at the core of their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.

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Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations ndowment for the expressed in these webinars do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.