A Crucible Moment: College Learning & Democracy's Future

A Call to Action and Report from The National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement

A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future
By The National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement

This report from the National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement calls on the nation to reclaim higher education’s civic mission. Commissioned by the Department of Education and released at a White House convening in January 2012, the report pushes back against a prevailing national dialogue that limits the mission of higher education to workforce preparation and training while marginalizing disciplines basic to democracy. To view footage from January's White House event, "For Democracy's Future: Education Reclaims Our Civic Mission," please click here and here.

A Crucible Moment calls on educators and public leaders to advance a 21st century vision of college learning for all students—a vision with civic learning and democratic engagement an expected part of every student’s college education. The report documents the nation’s anemic civic health and includes recommendations for action that address campus culture, general education, and civic inquiry as part of major and career fields as well as hands-on civic problem solving across differences. AAC&U thanks the Bringing Theory to Practice project and its supporters, the S. Engelhard Center, and the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation, for funding the design, printing, and dissemination of this publication.

A Crucible Moment was prepared at the invitation of the U.S. Department of Education under the leadership of the Global Perspective Institute, Inc. (GPI) and AAC&U. The publication was developed with input from a series of national roundtables involving leaders from all parts of the higher education and civic renewal communities.

See the 2012-2020 update of how A Crucible Moment has spurred action.

National Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Action Network 

Thanks to the firm commitment and enthusiasm of over 60 national organizations, local organizations, higher education institutions, scholars, practitioners, and philanthropists, The Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Action Network gathered statements of commitment(pdf) preceding the publication of A Crucible Moment to advance civic learning and democratic engagement as an essential cornerstone for every student. This dynamic and influential network of organizations and higher education institutions will help to fulfill a bold national agenda that will move civic learning from the periphery to the center of student learning.

A full list of network commitments in 2012 can be found here (pdf).

CLDE Action Network

To advance the recommendations in A Crucible Moment over time, AAC&U convened in 2012 thirteen national civic learning and higher education organizations that have collaborated for over six years to make civic learning expected rather than optional for college students. Each is a national organization with extensive reach and influence; each participated in roundtables that shaped A Crucible Moment, and each has committed to using its infrastructure to sustain progress in educating for diverse democracies and globally responsible citizens. Together, these organizations reach some 2,000 universities and colleges (both two-year and four-year) and include more than 8 million students. Through coordinated strategies, the CLDE Action Network aims to keep the national civic engagement agenda visible through conferences,  publications, joint projects, research, webinars, and other resources.

This entire report is available as a PDF document (see link below) and additional print copies can be purchased through AAC&U’s online publications catalog.

NASPA and Campus Compact have each created discussion booklets: