Purdue Krannert School of Management
Krannert Home > Centers > TFCE >
 Bachelor's Program
 Master's Program
 PhD Program
 Executive Education

Rationale for the Purdue ad hoc Task Force on Citizenship Education, and its mission

Emphasis 1: Citizenship
Emphasis 2: Service-learning as a valued educational strategy.
Emphasis 3: Interdisciplinary cooperation
Emphasis 4: Awareness of alternative approaches to citizenship

Core Initiative 1: Blending traditional academic practices with community service.
Core Initiative 2: Mutually-beneficial partnerships with community
Core Initiative 3: A responsive forum for discussion

Emphasis 1. Citizenship as a valued educational goal.

Throughout our nation's history the mission of higher education has been directed toward serving the perceived social needs existing in communities and in society-at-large. This has included the developing (equipping and nurturing) of its students to become "good citizens", able and committed to meet both public and career-related challenges. Purdue University, as a land-grant institution, traces its origin and purpose back to the first Morrill Act (1862). The clear intent of the Morrill Act was, and remains, to enhance the provision of educated members of society who have practical skills, allowing them to be productive and effective members of professions, and of society in general. There now exists the suggestion that land-grant institutions (and US higher education in general) have become side-tracked from an important component of that original purpose, and that key adaptations may allow these institutions to "get back on track" without compromising their existing strengths and areas of excellence.

As affirmed in one part of the mission statement of a fellow land-grant, and fellow Big-Ten, institution (Michigan State University): "Underlying all education programs is the belief that an educated person is one who becomes an effective and productive citizen. Such a person contributes to society intellectually, through analytical abilities and in the insightful use of knowledge; economically, through productive application of skills; socially, through the understanding and appreciation of the world and for individual and group beliefs and traditions; ethically, through sensitivity and faithfulness to examined values; and politically, through the use of reason in affairs of state. Mindful of such purposes, [the] University is committed to graduating educated men and women with diverse backgrounds who are active learners, ready to assume the responsibilities of leadership whenever opportunities arise."

Benchmarking also on material from the Bennion Center at the University of Utah, it can be noted that the needs that now challenge society are significantly different than those that have faced us in the past. These challenges have direct impact on both the professional or vocational roles as well as public citizen roles of our graduates. These pervasive societal challenges include: large scale problems of the physical environment, of health, of homelessness. Moreover, changes in the demography of the nation and attendant issues of cultural, religious and ethnic diversity, changes in family structures and lifestyles, and the globalization of the economy and political systems all directly impact the career-related and personal lives of all graduates, regardless of career-related major. Our communities need the new generations of college students to learn through "socially responsive knowledge" to accept social responsibility as "good citizens" and to make meaningful contributions to resolution of these burgeoning social problems.

While debate about the exact purpose of education, or the exact nature of "good citizenship", is healthy and should be expected to persist in vibrant, open and self-aware communities, the members of the Purdue ad hoc Task Force on Citizenship Education share a strong commitment to further the recognition of citizenship as a valued educational goal. One commentator has talked about fostering qualities in students, qualities such as honesty, tolerance, empathy, generosity, teamwork, cooperation, service, and social responsibility. Yet we might note that such qualities imply finding a balance between a need for openness, a commitment to standards, a detached ability to observe and to evaluate, and a willingness to participate. All this suggests a central role for values, but values which function with elements of reflection, self-awareness and openness, as well as with a commitment to collaboration and to concern for the greater good.

Back to the top

Emphasis 2. Service-learning as a valued educational strategy.

Given our notion of a "good citizen", and of the corresponding "socially-responsive knowledge", involves enhancing the students' awareness of the nature of community, awareness of the nature of citizenship, and willingness to become actively and effectively involved, then service-learning is a prototypical example of the means to generate such socially-responsive knowledge. 

Service-learning is a course-based educational experience through which students participate in an organized service activity that addresses community issues or needs. As part of this course experience, the students reflect on the service activity and the course's content in ways that promote understanding of community and societal issues. Thus service-learning combines the engagement and the participation of volunteerism with reflection and research in the classroom. Service-learning, well done, should increase: student sensitivity to others; student awareness of cultural and other differences, and awareness of societal problems and challenges; student awareness of how learning in the academy can make a difference in the broader society; student respect for the value of participation and service, approached thoughtfully and rationally, but with concern for the danger of prejudging individuals or situations.

The particular interpretation put on service-learning can vary widely, depending on the dominant aspect of citizenship emphasized in a particular course or program. Moreover, a variety of activities outside of conventional service-learning may have something to contribute to citizenship education, even though these variants typically lack some feature(s) of service learning. Volunteerism typically lacks the element of classroom-based reflection or research; courses in leadership, multiculturalism, or critical thinking may lack an experiential dimension outside the classroom; community-based, student-participatory research may lack explicit academic course credits; more traditional courses about the political process, or the history of ideas or the history of political institutions may lack experiential and reflective elements. 

Thus, while valuing the potential of "non-prototypical" forms of "socially-responsive knowledge-generation", the Purdue ad hoc Task Force on Citizenship Education strongly supports service-learning as being a primary and powerful form of citizenship education. This is not to say that service-learning -- or other forms of less-prototypical citizenship education -- should be embedded in every course in the curriculum; however there is value in every student having access to significant service-learning opportunities during his or her progress through the university, in encouraging each student to consider taking such courses, and in encouraging each program and department throughout the university to consider the extent of citizenship education and socially-responsive knowledge available to their students.

Back to the top

Emphasis 3. Interdisciplinary cooperation as a central means to facilitate these outcomes.

A thesis of this document is that the generation of socially-responsive knowledge thrives on an ability to integrate, holistically, values of community with traditional discipline-specific knowledge, as well as on an ability to recognize and respect differences, while being concerned about personal integrity and about the ways that such pluralism is mediated in political, social, economic and other contexts. If citizenship revolves at all around the notion of sharing ideas, expertise and experiences in a manner that is effective, reflective and constructively-critical, then interdisciplinary cooperation becomes an important signal of faculty willingness to listen to ideas and ways of thinking from other disciplines, an affirmation of the synergy and power of bringing to bear multiple perspectives for greater creativity and insight, and a sign of individual commitment to personal growth and to holistic integration of ideas. Thus both for intensely-practical and for intensely-symbolic reasons, the Purdue ad hoc Task Force on Citizenship Education strongly advocates an interdisciplinary approach -- promising economizing on resources, sharing pedagogical insights, and bringing to bear a wider array of resources and patterns of thinking, while affirming the value of openness and a willingness to learn from others. 

Back to the top

Emphasis 4. Awareness of alternative approaches to citizenship, and of alternative forms of learning and understanding, as a signal of informed, reflective scholarship.

Notions of citizenship can vary radically, as one would expect with such a "centrally-situated" concept. While each individual and each program at Purdue University is free to develop a notion of citizenship that seems most fitting, an inability to understand the reasons why other notions of citizenship may be valued -- and by implication, an inability to articulate potential weaknesses of one's own notion of citizenship -- would risk placing citizenship education within a zone of ignorance, insularity, and self-righteousness that might well contradict the ideals of "good citizenship" and of "good scholarship". It is the contention of the Purdue ad hoc Task Force on Citizenship Education that neither good citizenship nor healthy "service-responsive knowledge" are likely to be well-taught by an instructor who exhibits an inability to understand, and to treat with respect, alternative notions of citizenship and of learning, and who is unable to subject his or her notion of citizenship and learning to a critical examination. Such a person risks betraying both the ideals of the academy and the ideals of participative democracy.

Back to the top

Core Initiative 1. Fostering of curricula opportunities blending traditional academic practices with community service.

Blending traditional academic practices with community service will allow students, and faculty, to gain: greater appreciation of the problems and potentialities of society; greater understanding of the applicability of academic knowledge in the community (and of any weaknesses of a "purely-academic" way of thinking); a greater appreciation of the diversity, strengths and struggles found in our society; and a greater commitment to effective, and reflective, community service. Students should also find themselves more attractive to employers, while developing deeper relationships with faculty and while gaining a greater sense of purpose and direction in their lived experience. Faculty should expect to find such teaching rewarding, in terms of the high level of intrinsic motivation and enthusiasm of student participants.

Back to the top

Core Initiative 2. Development of mutually-beneficial partnerships with community-based agencies, area K - 12 schools, and corporate or governmental agencies.

An essential feature of citizenship education is an attitude of partnership, where the academic community -- in addition to providing expertise, leadership and volunteers as appropriate -- listens to, and learns from, those in the community outside the campus "walls". Any sense, that the university views (the rest of) the community as existing for the university's own purposes, would appear to risk compromising the ideals of citizenship. A true sense of partnership, functioning effectively, should provide a two-way stream of ideas -- encouraging the community to realize its own strengths and assets, providing faculty and students with new challenges and new insights into the strengths and weaknesses of their core ways of thinking, sharing special expertise and suggesting new problems and innovative solutions to old problems (both within the community and within the research agenda of the various faculty and students).

Back to the top

Core Initiative 3. Provision of a responsive forum for discussion (by faculty, students, and the community) of concerns related to citizenship education and public service.

Communication, and an ability to evaluate openly, critically, and without prejudice, is a central feature of the practice of citizenship. Information and education about the nature(s) of citizenship education, and of the roles of individuals within society, are essential to a process of individual and communal growth and maturity. This is particularly true in an age where a traditional commitment to citizenship is feared to be eroding, and where there is concern about similar erosion of the level of discourse in academia.


Krannert Home | Purdue Home | Contact Information
Copyright © 2018 Purdue University. All Rights Reserved.
An equal access/equal opportunity university.



 TFCE Links