Aristotle, Dewey, Gadamer, and the Citizen Action Project: Educating the Ethical Citizen
Ferrell, William Martin
Gordon, Nora E
ARISTOTLE, DEWEY, GADAMER, AND THE CITIZEN ACTION PROJECT: EDUCATING THE ETHICAL CITIZENWilliam Martin Ferrell, M.L.A.Thesis Chair: Nora Gordon, Ph.D.ABSTRACTIn this era of unprecedented political acrimony in the United States, the need for an effective national citizen education program has never been more acute. At the same time, the national trend in education ushered in by No Child Left Behind toward holding schools accountable through increased standardized testing of their students has made developing and implementing a robust, experiential citizen education program with broad appeal seem less and less likely. In the face of the difficult political and educational context, this study provides both a philosophical foundation drawn from the writings of Aristotle, John Dewey, and Hans-Georg Gadamer from which to build a viable citizen education program and a practical model, the Citizen Action Project, worthy of emulation. Taken together, the philosophical framework and the practical model also provide a reliable basis from which to evaluate the efficacy of existing citizen education programs.Adopting educator and researcher Sharan Merriam’s mixed methods case study approach, this study evaluated one such program, the Citizen Action Project (CAP) at Monticello High School in Charlottesville, Virginia. Data was collected through pre- and post-program open-ended question surveys of students, two on-site observations of student presentations and class work, video observations of the end-of-project seminars, and an array of student work uploaded to Google Sites as required by the program. Qualitative, categorical and quantitative analyses of student responses to the surveys and seminar questions were performed to determine the extent of change in student understanding of the concepts of citizen and citizenship. Qualitative analysis of the student work was performed to further evaluate the effectiveness of CAP at educating for this understanding, as well as in CAP’s ability to teach and assess student proficiency in core citizenship skills.The results of the study suggest that CAP is generally successful at teaching and assessing citizenship skills and adequate student understanding of what it means to be an effective citizen. Based on the successful evaluation of CAP, the study also suggests that a scalable, experiential citizen education program is viable within the larger national context. Finally, the results also provide some direction and suggestions for future research.
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