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Coalition Promotes Renewed Commitment to Civics

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WASHINGTON--A new coalition of academics, foundations, and others promoting a renewed commitment to citizenship and civics education has announced plans to create a number of demonstration projects that would include involvement by schools and young people.

The coalition, known as "The New Citizenship,'' was unveiled here last week. The projects, the number and scope of which are still to be decided, would be privately funded and would run under the coalition's sponsorship, said Harry C. Boyte, a co-director of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and one of the coalition's organizers.

The initiative is designed to effect change in educational, civic, and service institutions--shifting the relationship between government and citizens from that of a provider and client to more of a full partnership in which citizens actively contribute to solving problems, according to the plan's originators.

The primary groups behind the initiative, which has been endorsed by several national education groups, are Mr. Boyte's Center for Democracy and the Walt Whitman Center for the Culture and Politics of Democracy at Rutgers University.

Coalition's Agenda Detailed

A "white paper'' detailing the coalition's agenda states that public education should be bolstered through the use of service learning, rewards for outstanding teaching, higher teacher salaries, and smaller schools.

The paper's authors, who include Mr. Boyte and Benjamin R. Barber, the director of the Walt Whitman center, also propose for discussion:

  • A national service initiative that builds on existing programs, including youth corps and programs in K-12 schools.
  • Policies that encourage strong parental and community participation in governance through site-based management and other measures.
  • Incentives that encourage schools to become community centers that are open outside normal school hours.

Mr. Boyte said in an interview that the New Citizenship Project might eventually distribute about $1 million annually.

He said the plan could include roughly 24 pilot sites, each of which would focus on an institution or group involved in a significant civic action.

The projects would take different shapes, but would "in almost every case have some school or youth component,'' he said.

"I think it's critical to have renewed citizenship education ... in K-12,'' Mr. Boyte said, "if young people are to see themselves as creators of the world they're going to take over.''

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