For Immediate Release

David Tritelli
Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs
202-888-0811 (office)

AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider Speaks on Reclaiming the Civic Mission of Higher Education at White House Event

Event Features Release of New Report, A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future, Recommendations from the National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democracy’s Future

Jan 10, 2012

Washington, DC—Concerned that we are creating a two-tier system of higher education that isn’t preparing all college graduates to participate successfully in either our democracy or the economy, Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) President Carol Geary Schneider today called for new efforts to make civic learning for all students a widely shared national priority at a White House convening, “For Democracy’s Future: Higher Education Reclaims Our Civic Mission.” Schneider joined with US Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter to present findings and recommendations from a new report, A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future, authored by the National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement, of which President Schneider is one of eleven members. 

Pushing back against a prevailing national dialogue that limits the mission of higher education primarily to workforce preparation, A Crucible Moment calls on higher education and many partners in education, government, and public life to advance a twenty-first-century vision of horizon-expanding education for all students—a vision with civic learning and democratic engagement an expected part of every student’s college education.

A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future was prepared at the invitation of the US Department of Education under the leadership of the The Global Perspective Institute Inc. (GPI) and AAC&U. The report was shaped through a series of national roundtables involving leaders from all parts of the civic renewal community. It responds to widespread concern about the nation’s anemic civic health and calls for investing in higher education’s capacity to significantly replenish our nation’s social, intellectual, and civic capital. 

“I am hopeful that this milestone event will help reverse the dangerous narrowing of this nation’s vision for college learning and its importance to society,” said President Schneider. “The heart of a vibrant democracy is educated, engaged citizens who are able to make wise and responsible choices for their families, their communities, and our democracy. America’s colleges and universities must play a central role in educating every college student to become these engaged citizens and to help reinvigorate our dispirited democracy.”

“We want to engage every college and university in educating students for informed, engaged citizenship—students with the knowledge and skills, as outlined in this report, that are fundamental to their success in our global economy,” said Under Secretary Martha Kanter. “We need graduates who are well-grounded in the values, principles, and ideals of democracy that formed our great nation—citizens who will become active participants in the lives of their communities, people who will help our country prosper socially, economically, and culturally now and for future generations.”

The centerpiece of A Crucible Moment is a National Call to Action to be undertaken by a broad coalition of constituents. The National Task Force urges Americans to

  1. Reclaim and reinvest in the fundamental civic and democratic mission of schools and of all sectors within higher education
  2. Enlarge the current national narrative that erases civic aims and civic literacy as educational priorities contributing to social, intellectual, and economic capital
  3. Advance a contemporary, comprehensive framework for civic learning—embracing US and global interdependence—that includes historic and modern understandings of democratic values, capacities to engage diverse perspectives and people, and commitment to collective civic problem solving
  4. Capitalize upon the interdependent responsibilities of K-12 and higher education to foster progressively higher levels of civic knowledge, skills, examined values, and action as expectations for every student
  5. Expand the number of robust, generative civic partnerships and alliances locally, nationally, and globally to address common problems, empower people to act, strengthen communities and nations, and generate new frontiers of knowledge

At the White House event, leaders from many institutions and organizations came together and pledged to advance a coordinated plan of action to reclaim higher education’s civic mission and build a stronger democracy. 

A fuller discussion of the report and its National Call to Action will also occur at two upcoming Washington, DC, events sponsored by AAC&U—a National Symposium, “Reversing a Civic Recession: What Higher Education Can Do,” scheduled for January 25, 2012, at which Under Secretary Martha Kanter will speak, and AAC&U’s Annual Meeting on “Reclaiming a Democratic Vision for College Learning, Global Engagement, and Success,” January 25-28, 2012. Both these events are open to the media and will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. For press passes to these AAC&U events, contact Carrie Johnson via e-mail at

See the full report, and highlights from it, at: