Book by Colby, A., Beaumont, E., Ehrlich, T., & Corngold, J
Review by Adam Duberstein
Academic Advisor
Ohio Dominican University
Columbus, Ohio

In Colby, Beaumont, Ehrlich, and Corngold’s (2007) book Educating for Democracy: Preparing undergraduates for responsible political engagement, the authors study twenty-one politically related co-curricular programs and classes. The authors titled their study the Political Engagement Project (PEP) and rated students’ political development as they progressed through programs, courses, and hybrids of the two.  While the programs, courses, and hybrids studied had strong political engagement components and represented a diversity of institutions, the authors would have done better to review either required courses or co-curricular programs, since the goals of the participating students would have been more consistent.

Since colleges and universities of all types desire that their students both think critically and contribute to the public arena, institutions of higher education “…are well-positioned to promote democratic competencies and participation” (p. 4). The authors suggest that service-learning programs can incorporate a more political bent into their curricula. Such an idea makes good sense, as students can more readily learn how public policy directly impacts the population one serves.

Colby, Beaumont, Ehrlich, and Corngold (2007) explore a variety of methods of teaching undergraduates about politics and public service.  Much of the pedagogy they suggest is applicable to discussing politics in an advising framework, as mentoring, reflecting, research, discussion, and active participation all prove themselves as components of a successful advising session.

As advisors, we want to have students make their own choices.  We can let them know where we stand on a given issue, be that a concern about scheduling or a political viewpoint, but we must encourage students to find their own voices.  The authors of this text wisely warn against indoctrinating students to one’s own beliefs, as that behavior denies the student a chance to think critically about the issues presented, which should be the goal whether discussing politics with students or discussing students’ future plans with them.

Although faculty members are intended to be the primary audience for this book, professional advisors can also benefit from it.  The classes and programs studied in the PEP clearly stress open-mindedness so that their students can learn about the same issue from multiple points of view. It proves important for advisors, too, to encourage our students to keep open minds as they explore one or several fields of study and take multiple courses.  

The authors point out that politics can be discussed in a civil manner with the intent to educate.  If advisors encourage students to look at civic participation in a positive light with such a connected worldview, then perhaps we can foster our students’ civic development and political knowledge.  If we approach politics as professional educators, this book suggests that we can make a difference in how students view American politics.

Educating for democracy: Preparing undergraduates for responsible political engagement. (2007). Book by Colby, A., Beaumont, E., Ehrlich, T., & Corngold, J. Review by Adam Duberstein.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publications.  364 pp.  $35.00.  ISBN # 978-0-7879-8554-7
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