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Teaching America: The Case for Civic Education

3.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1607098416
ISBN-10: 1607098415
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Editorial Reviews


The American experiment in self-governance relies on a citizenry conversant in American history and government process. Feith (assistant editorial features editor, Wall Street Journal) and his knowledgeable group of contributors-public officials, law and education scholars, and educators-sound the alarm with impressive clarity about the current state of American civic literacy. Their case is straightforward and without divisive rhetoric. The included essays explore the historical place of civic literacy within the American education system, look at current and past government programs intended to effect civic literacy, present snapshots of existing civic-education programs in K-12 and higher education, and consider options for the future. Verdict A well-documented case for civic-education reform articulated by policymakers, lawyers, educators, and academics who share their expertise and involvement with government programs and relevant curricula. This collection is distinctive for its breadth of coverage and the first-hand expertise and knowledge of its contributors. Highly recommended for students in education and teacher preparation. (Library Journal 2011-10-04)

David Feith, an assistant editorial features editor at the Wall Street Journal and twice recipient of the Robert L. Bartley Fellow at the Wall Street Journal, has brought together an esteemed group of seminal thinkers. These men and women substantially hold to the tenet that America has to give its children a sense of civic identity along with a fundamental understanding of our American constitutional system. The essays collected by Feith address several significant issues, including the democratic purpose of education, assimilation, leadership, civil liberties in the digital age, and indoctrination—all of which are of major concern. The mixture presents a whirlwind—no, a cyclonic vortex—of exemplary thought by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Juan Williams, Alan M. Dershowitz, Senators Jon Kyl and Bob Graham, Admiral Mike Ratliff, and Peter Levine—22 in all. Levine’s comment in his “Letter to President Obama” should make everyone stop and take notice....But Glenn Harlan Reynolds’s closing statement in the preceding essay, “Education vs. Indoctrination” is the real clincher. (New York Journal of Books 2011-09-14)

The past is critical to the future—a commonplace observation that would not be notable if the findings in this important book had turned out differently. As it is, Teaching America chronicles the nation’s civics deficit, arguing eloquently and sensibly for a renewed commitment to education about public life... This book and this project are excellent places to begin.

(Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian)

We need to heed the voices in this essential book. If America is going to continue to be a powerful force for good in the world, we must repair our public education system and cultivate citizens that have the tools and ideals necessary to ensure the success of our great experiment in democracy. Teaching America tells us how. (Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO, Harlem Children's Zone)

The greatest threat to the future of American democracy is our failure to educate every child. In Newark and cities across this country, the problems described in Teaching America are plain to see: inadequate civic education has left many students on the margins of our democracy, unable to benefit from or contribute to its wealth and growth. Fortunately, Teaching America offers a vital blueprint for how public leaders, educators, and parents can empower our students, help them realize their genius, and strengthen our nation. (Cory Booker, mayor of Newark)

It's hard to think of a more important subject than the one this book tackles with such clarity, power, and creativity: how to preserve American history so that all we've been, and all we mean to be, will continue to hold us together as a nation. A generation ago, President Reagan warned of 'an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.' This book both reflects and adds fresh documentation to that warning. And its great contribution is that it offers some bracing suggestions on what to do about it. (Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal columnist and former speechwriter for President Reagan)

About the Author

David Feith is an assistant editorial features editor at The Wall Street Journal and directs the Civic Education Initiative.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: R&L Education (August 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1607098415
  • ISBN-13: 978-1607098416
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #761,688 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Finished this over the weekend. It's a great, thoughtful compilation, edited by a rising writer and civics leader. Feith ably balances the various views and takes, presenting a comprehensive volume that's of interest, I'd say, to both academics and a general audience. Pick it up.
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Format: Hardcover
No reasonable person could quarrel with the idea that future citizens of the nation need to know its history and the principles and structure of government. The book's contributors include a balanced, throughful set of experts, led off by Sandra Day O'Connor. Having served as an often-praised Supreme Court Justice, she shows her own commitment to society by her active post-retirement efforts to promote good governance.

But I suggest that the book has three critical gaps - besides the lack of a table of contents cited by the lowball reviewer. Without covering these essential areas the book - despite its thoughtful essays - probably won't offer an effective guide to get us to where the authors want us to go. Consider this. The query for "books, U.S. educational policy" in Google Scholar yields 2,590,000 scholarly titles! These are not just book titles - they include reviews, etc. But we've got plenty of talk and not much balanced action.

1 ) Before the 1960s high school curricula throughout the nation included civics. The book doesn't trace history and explain why we long had civics emphasis in primary and secondary school curricula but lost it in the 1960s. If this question isn't resolved or at least taken up, what's the likelihood that efforts to restore civics will be successful or long lasting?

2) The book suggests that various trends - "political reform, digital tools, charter schools, strategic philanthropy, teachers, and education reformers, policymakers at all levels of government .... can advance civics renewal". With many conflicts and interest groups in U.S. society, will these diverse actors really bring it about? Are the authors part of a practical/political movement to make it happen?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As with any collection of essays, there are those that are outstanding and those that cause readers to wonder why that particular author was included.

Alan M. Dershowitz's essay was outstanding and I truly admire that guy, even if I disagree with him on certain topics. Senator Bob Graham's, on the other hand, read as if he got the invitation to contribute and directed a college intern to write. And a few of the essays, were promoting programs the authors are involved in.

All in all, though, as a teacher of U.S. Government I wanted to buy a copy for each member of my local school board.

Good reading.
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Format: Paperback
David Feith et al did an amazing job of gathering the breadth and depth of the political spectrum and then got them all to agree on the need for high quality civic education. Each chapter has it's own spin on the topic, but with a common articulating vision: The purpose of public education is Citizenship First (www.CitizenshipFirst.US).
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