Civic Learning for a Democracy in Crisis

Bruce Jennings, Michael K. Gusmano, Gregory E. Kaebnick, Carolyn P. Neuhaus, Mildred Z. Solomon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This essay introduces a special report from The Hastings Center entitled Democracy in Crisis: Civic Learning and the Reconstruction of Common Purpose, which grew out of a project supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. This multiauthored report offers wide-ranging assessments of increasing polarization and partisanship in American government and politics, and it proposes constructive responses to this in the provision of objective information, institutional reforms in government and the electoral system, and a reexamination of cultural and political values needed if democracy is to function well in a pluralistic and diverse society. The essays in the special report explore the norms of civic learning and institutions, social movements, and communal innovations that can revitalize civic learning in practice. This introductory essay defines and explains the notion of civic learning, which is a lynchpin connecting many of the essays in the report. Civic learning pertains to the ways in which citizens learn about collective social problems and make decisions about them that reflect the duties and responsibilities of citizenship. Such learning can occur in many social settings in everyday life, and it can also be facilitated through participation in the processes of democratic governance on many levels. Civic learning is not doctrinaire and is compatible with a range of public goals and policies. It is an activity that increases what might be called the democratic capability of a people.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S2-S4
JournalHastings Center Report
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy


  • bioethics
  • citizenship
  • civic learning
  • diversity
  • participation
  • pluralism


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