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Colleges Are Accused of Using Civics Instruction to Promote Liberal Activism

Colleges can expect to see their civics-education offerings come under fire from conservatives as a result of a report issued on Tuesday by the National Association of Scholars, an advocacy group.

The NAS, which takes a traditionalist view of higher education, argues in its report that a “New Civics” movement in higher education has supplanted objective teaching about the United States’ system of government with efforts to encourage students to engage in liberal or leftist political activism.

“The New Civics seeks above all to make students into enthusiastic supporters of the New Left’s dream of ‘fundamentally transforming’ America,” says the report. The NAS, which took up the issue in response to the Obama administration’s call for colleges to make civic learning a priority, hopes to gain more clout under the administration of President-elect Donald J. Trump.

The report accuses the advocates of activism-focused civic instruction of having goals that include opposing fossil fuels as well as “massively redistributing wealth, intensifying identity-group grievance, curtailing the free market, expanding government bureaucracy, elevating international ‘norms’ over American constitutional law, and disparaging our common history and ideals.” It is especially critical of service learning, which it describes as “an effort to divert students from the classroom to vocational training as community activists” in support of progressive organizations. It says civic-learning programs divert not just student labor, but colleges’ financial resources, toward such groups.

Among the colleges specifically criticized in the report as overemphasizing student political activism at the expense of traditional civic education, the University of Colorado at Boulder on Tuesday issued a statement in which Russell L. Moore, its provost, said: “We strongly disagree with the representation presented in this opinion piece from the NAS.”

“CU Boulder offers students the chance to choose from a wide variety of classes and community experiences — from courses in Western civilization to working with local K-12 students experiencing poverty and homelessness,” Mr. Moore said.  “Our faculty, as required by regent law and academic custom, have developed a high-quality, balanced curriculum that helps us to shape tomorrow’s leaders and positively impact humanity.”

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