Northwestern Events Calendar


The Color of Civics: Civic Education for a Multiracial Democracy

When: Wednesday, October 25, 2023
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM CT

Where: Scott Hall, 201, 601 University Place, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Graduate Students

Contact: Ariel Sowers   (847) 491-7454

Group: Department of Political Science

Category: Academic


Please join the Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Workshop as they host Dr. Matthew Neslon, Ph.D. '20, for a discussion of his recent publication The Color of Civics: Civic Education for a Multiracial Democracy

Generations of Americans, dating back to the nation's founding, have regarded schools as essential for developing the knowledge and civic values necessary for sustaining democracy. Yet, as Matthew D. Nelsen argues in The Color of Civics, traditional approaches to civic education are not living up to their promise for many students, particularly students of color from disadvantaged communities. How do we prepare an increasingly diverse generation of Americans for full participation in public life?

Drawing on lessons from students and teachers in Chicago, The Color of Civics reimagines the democratic purpose of civic education. Nelsen's findings challenge some of the most widely cited civic education research, arguing that the content of traditional civic education courses privileges the political experiences of white political actors, and in turn, contributes to divergent political behaviors and participatory outcomes across racial and ethnic groups. He presents a new approach to civic education that aims to foster political empowerment by centering historically-grounded conversations about current events as well as critical categories of knowledge--those that highlight the agency and grassroots political action of marginalized groups. This approach increases rates of intended political participation among young people of color and heightens political empathy among white youth. Nelsen also highlights the agency of teachers in processes of socialization, exploring how their attitudes and lived experiences drive the implementation of more empowering civic learning environments.

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