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Good education requires student experiences that deliver lessons about practice as well as theory and that encourage students to work for the public good—especially in the operation of democratic institutions (Dewey 1923; Dewy 1938). We report on an evaluation of the pedagogical value of a research project involving 23 colleges and universities across the country. Faculty trained and supervised students who observed polling places in the 2016 General Election. Our findings indicate that this was a valuable learning experience in both the short and long terms. Students found their experiences to be valuable and reported learning generally and specifically related to course material. Postelection, they also felt more knowledgeable about election science topics, voting behavior, and research methods. Students reported interest in participating in similar research in the future, would recommend other students to do so, and expressed interest in more learning and research about the topics central to their experience. Our results suggest that participants appreciated the importance of elections and their study. Collectively, the participating students are engaged and efficacious—essential qualities of citizens in a democracy.
Participants in this track were delighted to see a number of common
themes develop during our presentations and discussions throughout
the conference. Participants included faculty and graduate students
from a variety of subfields who design creative exercises to
actively engage their students in learning. With the wide range of
simulations that already exist and the growing body of literature
addressing the design of new simulations, faculty have significant
resources at their disposal to incorporate simulations into their
courses. Simulations are so readily adaptable they can accommodate
almost any course content or learning objective.
In meeting the threat posed by terrorism, the democratic state also faces a paradox: those practices best suited to defending the state are often least suited to democracy. Such is the case with official secrecy, which has received renewed attention. Military and intelligence operations frequently depend on secrecy for their success. At the same time, democracy depends on openness, a fact too often neglected by democratic theory. Official secrecy subverts citizen autonomy and in so doing creates fertile ground for paranoid-style thinking. For the United States, a history of secrets and lies has left a legacy of distrust and paranoia.
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