- Lynn M. KuzmaLynn M. KuzmaDepartment of Sociology and Anthropology, Rutgers University–Newark
There is a body of evidence that suggests that young Americans are disengaged from communal life. Since the late 1980s, college students have been described as materialistic, self-absorbed, and self-interested, acting without regard for community interests. Scholars consider the “me generation” as symptomatic of an eroding democratic civic culture characterized by growing apathy, resentment, even anger. This trend continues today. In order to address this, proponents of higher education have made their attempts to develop civic engagement in young minds. Civic engagement refers to activities within a community, though in the academic setting, the definition becomes much more complex. There is a belief that through participation in a community, students will develop capacities that ultimately lead them to become more active citizens, which in turn benefits not only themselves but also the community. However, higher education’s recommitment to developing students’ civic engagement should be informed by a clear notion of what civic engagement entails. In addition, a certain amount of factual knowledge is a prerequisite for becoming an engaged citizen, as civic learning involves students coming to understand the democratic processes of a community, its history, the problems it faces, and the richness of its diversity. And civic learning opportunities can be taught both in and outside of the classroom, as co-curricular learning opportunities, projects embedded in a class, or as a requirement of a general education curriculum.