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Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (CLDE)


As we move forward in an increasingly contentious global century and face a civic learning gap nationally, the United States must make civic and democratic learning for all students a top national priority. The future of our democracy and our shared futures depend on a more informed, engaged, and globally responsible citizenry.

A Crucible Moment

Working in concert with the Department of Education, AAC&U and the Global Perspective Institute, Inc. (GPI) released a new report calling on the nation to reclaim higher education’s civic mission. The report, entitled A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy's Future and authored by the Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Task Force with Caryn McTighe Musil as lead author, includes a national call to action designed to make civic and democratic learning an expected outcome for every college student, and an integrated part of education from pre-school to professional schools. For more information, and to download a full PDF of the report, please click here. In addition, see Ashley Finley's Civic Learning and Democratic Engagements: A Review of the Literature on Civic Engagement in Post-Secondary Education, which informed A Crucible Moment's research.

Since the release of A Crucible Moment, AAC&U has convened a group of 13 national organizations called the Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (CLDE) Action Network to coordinate with one another and use the breadth of their national outreach to serve the larger communities of practice and advance A Crucible Moment's ambitious agenda. This reflects AAC&U's ongoing commitment to help all students achieve the essential outcomes of a 21st century liberal education, including personal and social responsibility - an important cornerstone of the LEAP essential learning outcomes advanced by AAC&U.

Project Updates

CLDE Network Responds to A Crucible Moment
See update on follow-up activities.

The official release of A Crucible Moment was marked by a high profile White House event, "For Democracy's Future: Education Reclaims Our Civic Mission" sponsored by the White House Office of Public Engagement and the U.S. Department of Education on January 10, 2012. The report was the chief focus of the January Symposium for AAC&U's 2012 annual meeting, "Reversing a Civic Recession: What Higher Education Can Do." Both events were organized to highlight the recommendations of the report, as well as establish a bold national agenda that will move civic learning from the periphery to the center of college learning.

To help maintain national momentum and inspire educators and community members alike to be part of this civic resurgence, AAC&U has gathered statements of commitment from over 60 national organizations, higher education institutions, and others in the CLDE Action Network. A full list of network commitments can be found here.

In November 2012, AAC&U hosted in Chicago the first of what it expects to be a national series of city-wide collaborative action forums to assist institutions in implementing the National Call to Action from A Crucible Moment. Funded through the McCormick Foundation, the initial planning group  for Chicago, composed of five Chicago colleges and universities along with Illinois Campus Compact and The Interfaith Youth Core, helped shape a two-part action collaborative involving teams from 12 Chicago-area colleges and universities to advance civic learning and democratic engagement.  

AAC&U and The Democracy Commitment: An American Community College Initiative (TDC) are also pleased to announce a new project to support the formation of a new community college network focused on civic learning and democratic capacity-building through the humanities. The project, called Bridging Cultures to Form a Nation: Difference, Community, and Democratic Thinking, supports a three-year curriculum and faculty development plan for a network of ten community colleges nationwide.

Project History

To stimulate the national dialogue leading to this report, AAC&U and the Global Perspective Institute partnered in the Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Project to organize a series of five national roundtable discussions convening educational leaders, state agencies, faculty, business leaders, and other stakeholders to deliberate and discuss a national agenda for civic learning and democratic engagement. These meetings, held between December 2010 and March 2011, involved leaders and practitioners from four-year colleges, community colleges, universities, associations, disciplinary societies, and civic organizations. A National Task Force oversaw the CLDE project for 15 months leading up to the publication of A Crucible Moment.