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Civic Health and Higher Education

The National Center on Citizenship released, at its annual conference, the first Civic Health Index. The Index, available from an on-line report entitled "America's Civic Health Index: Broken Engagement", is described as "a rigorous tool to measure civic progress over time. The Civic Health Index is comprised of 40 key civic indicators measuring levels of political activity, civic knowledge, volunteering, trust, philanthropy, and much more."

The overall conclusion is that the civic health of the nation has declined fairly dramatically over the past several decades. However, there are some encouraging results for those of us who believe that higher education makes a positive difference. To quote from the Executive Summary,

"The Index combines data for all adult Americans (age 18 and older). However, if we disaggregate this data..., we see the civic health of young adults (18-25) improving, at least relative to older generations. That is a hopeful sign, because “as the twig is bent, so grows the tree.?

One of the most dramatic divides in civic health is dependent upon levels of education. Individuals with college degrees are 9-17 points ahead civically of individuals with no college experience. The divide between college graduates and high school dropouts has been as great as 24 percentage points and was 15 points in 2004."

The measures graphed to arrive at these conclusions are voting, volunteering, club meetings, and trust in government. None of these relates directly to a college education, but all relate to the unspoken curriculum that we think is such an important part of what we do.