Are you a good citizen? If so, what do you do that makes you one?
At many colleges and universities, good citizenship is now understood as requiring a personal commitment to “sustainability.”
Last fall, I traveled out west to visit universities the National Association of Scholars is studying for a project looking at civics education in colleges. “Civics” isn’t what it used to be: the study of how our system of self-government works. Instead the term has been appropriated by colleges that want citizens to repair “growing global economic inequalities, climate change and environmental degradation, lack of access to quality health care, [and] economic volatility,” says a White House-commissioned report, “A Crucible Moment,” which is the Bible of this campus movement.
On my trip, I found the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley bedecked with banners and posters announcing the school’s commitment to sustainability and ways for students to get involved. Someone on the quad at Colorado State University handed me a “Vote Climate” brochure. At CU-Boulder I sat down with a student government leader who is majoring in finance. When I asked him what values were most important at Boulder, he named sustainability first.