Democracy has to be born anew in every generation,
and education is its midwife.
-John Dewey

The Democracy Commitment and the American Democracy Project are pleased to announce a new teacher education effort and strand at their national meeting established to forge and strengthen democratic education and civic engagement in teacher preparation at two- and four-year member institutions.

Educators are the primary stewards of democracy. Since the birth of the republic, we have charged schools with preparing students for lives of democratic citizenship. This charge has regrettably devolved into the “mechanics” of citizenship, and even this narrow approach is increasingly crowded out of the classroom by accountability mandates. Nonetheless, citizenship is more than elections. Democracy, as Dewey stated, is first and foremost a form of associational life, not a system of government. Teaching and learning in our schools must address this rich vision.

This challenge is exacerbated by the way future teachers are taught. The “science” of teaching, advanced by Thorndike and others, has come to dominate the American classroom, undermining a more learning-centered, developmental paradigm advanced by Dewey. The relentless quest for accountability drives Teacher Education programs, just as it dominates American classrooms.

A unique opportunity to ameliorate these trends can be found in two national civic engagement projects: The Democracy Commitment (TDC) of community colleges and the American Democracy Project (ADP) of state colleges and universities. These two sectors of American higher education are making a concerted re-commitment to democratic education and civic engagement. This commitment must be pursued in Teacher Education. State comprehensive colleges are the largest providers of trained teachers for American classrooms, and fully half of their graduates transfer into their programs from their local community college. Currently, at least 50% of teachers have taken courses at community colleges.

An alliance between teacher educators in these two systems can help to recalibrate the way classroom teachers are educated in this country, with great promise for reinvigorating democracy in our classrooms, and in our communities. Four domains are ripe for organizing, and for projects and interactions among the partners:

  • Programs: lower division and upper division Teacher Education programs in local communities can collaborate to provide rich engagement experiences for the pre-service teachers they share in serving
  • Partnerships: articulation agreements and field training partnerships with PK-12 districts can foster and enhance teacher education for democracy
  • Pipelines: recruiting and mentoring prospective candidates from local communities, especially minority populations who increasingly represent the majority in the locales served by state colleges and community colleges, can create a pipeline through which future teachers can successfully pass
  • Policies: the two sectors can link arms in addressing federal, state and local policies that mitigate against the vision of educating P-12 students and their prospective teachers for lives of democratic engagement

We are seeking faculty and staff in TDC and ADP institutions who will join in this work.  Two levels of involvement are requested:  participation in a national dialogue on these issues, including participation in an ongoing workgroup and in the annual ADP/TDC meeting and partnership development at the local level through 2+2  interactions.


2014 American Democracy Project and The Democracy Commitment Joint National Meeting Thursday, June 5 to Saturday, June 7, 2014

Marriott Louisville Downtown, Louisville, Kentucky.
Theme: “Forging Civic Pathways for Students between Our Institutions.”

This theme is made for us! We invite teacher education faculty and staff at TDC and ADP institutions to join us in Louisville. Better yet! We invite teacher education faculty and staff to submit presentation proposals that address any of the Teacher Education Joint Initiative four domains: programs, partnerships, pipelines, and policies.

Information about the meeting theme, call for proposals and logistics and other information go here.

Note: The deadline for presentation proposal submissions is Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 11:59 PM Eastern.

We would be happy to talk with you about this exciting new initiative, to learn about your work and ideas and how you might join us in this work.

Please be in touch, and see you in Louisville!

Jolanda Westerhof, Ph.D.
Director of Teacher Education
American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU)
[email protected]

Bernie Ronan, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Chancellor, Public Affairs, Maricopa Community Colleges
Co-Founder, The Democracy Commitment
[email protected]

Posted in #ADPTDC14 Update on Jan 29, 2014