Civic Pedagogies in Higher Education: Teaching for Democracy in Europe, Canada and the USA by Jason Laker, Concepcion Naval, and Kornelija Mrnjaus (review)
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Reviewed by
Jason Laker, Concepcion Naval, and Kornelija Mrnjaus. Civic Pedagogies in Higher Education: Teaching for Democracy in Europe, Canada and the USA. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 200pp. Hardcover: $67.98. ISBN: 1-137-35558-4.

In Civic Pedagogies in Higher Education: Teaching for Democracy in Europe, Canada and the USA, editors Jason Laker (San Jose State University, USA), Concepcion Naval (University of Navarra, Spain), and Kornelija Mrnjaus (University of Rijeka, Croatia) present a collection of articles that document, explore, and theorize efforts to teach for democracy. The articles pull from across Europe and North America and thus take up a very diverse range of practices and positions. That diversity, we believe, characterizes the book, its strengths, its occasional challenges, and its value to those interested in the very broad range of democratic pedagogies.

Peter G. Kirchschlaeger’s first chapter, “Colleges and Universities Can Make a Difference: Human Rights Education through Study Visits of Human Rights Institutions,” focuses on human rights education, and presents a vision of human rights education that places study visits to human rights institutions at the center. Kirchschlaeger begins by defining and contextualizing human rights; he then examines human rights education as subject, philosophy, and method. He pays special attention to three important ideas: first, that human rights education is essential for democratic citizenship; second, that the pedagogies put to work by human [End Page 625] rights educators must be grounded in the same ideas of equity, freedom, and democratic participation that animate understandings of human rights; and third, that well designed “study visits” can move human rights education beyond attempts to inculcate general feelings, convictions, and impressions, and move toward a human rights education that is philosophy based and rooted in reason, argument, and persuasion. Kirchlaeger also provides a helpful outline of his method that includes such elements as learning outcomes, planning, preparation, materials, implementation, and post-processing; the outline clearly lays out his method, but leaves enough room for individuals to adapt the method to their particular contexts.

Chapter 2, “CommUniverCity: Building Community in the Silicon Valley,” explores the multidimensional civic impact of CommUniverCity, a collaboration between the City of San Jose and San Jose State University that culminated in the opening of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, the United State’s first joint-use public library. The chapter’s authors, Dayana Salazar and Melinda Jackson, both narrate and analyze the seven year history of CommUniverCity, which, they argue, demonstrated both San Jose State’s commitment to service learning, and the City of San Jose’s commitment to life long learning. Salazar and Jackson discuss the sometimes difficult tasks of investing in neighborhoods, working across different organizational cultures, and building leadership. They describe five key conditions to the success of their project: geographic focus, multidimensional relationships, long-term-commitment, community-driven priorities, and social capital building. They note that these conditions could very well apply to other such collaborations, although they are careful to point out that the particulars of each project will affect the details and trajectory of those conditions. CommUniverCity has benefitted both community and university and has provided opportunities for multiple forms of assessment, as well as fresh research focused on civic impact. Indeed, the project has exceeded the expectation of its planners and administrators. Salazar and Jackson conclude by providing an outline for building similar programs at other universities, but they caution readers against expecting similar circumstances and results.

In Chapter 3, “Negotiating Change in Romanian Tertiary Education: Volunteering and Democratic Citizenship,” Maria-Carmen Pantea argues that, for a complex range of reasons, Romania’s universities do not currently play a key role in educating for democratic citizenship. In this wide ranging essay, Pantea touches upon a broad array of factors that describe the university’s currently weak role in building Romanian civil society: a view of learning and knowledge constructed more in terms of transfer than generation; a distinctly post-communist ambivalence that continues to shroud state institutions; and a social ethos currently more attuned to immediate families and communities than to a shared civil society. Although Romanian universities do not extensively engage civil society, Romanian students...


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