LAKELAND, Fla. – Southeastern University (SEU), in collaboration with Ball State University and the Minnesota Humanities Center, recently received funding from the Teagle Foundation for a groundbreaking effort to promote content-rich historical and civic learning for undergraduates.
The project, “Third Way Civics,” aims to give students the ability to develop a civic identity that includes any and all efforts to steward and improve the public commons — the life we share together.
“This curriculum allows the student to place themselves back during critical times in the development of America so that they can better understand how we as a nation, by understanding the political process, can get through hard times and allow successive generations of Americans to thrive,” said former Congressman Dennis Ross, director of the American Center for Political Leadership at Southeastern University.
The project includes pilot courses being offered this fall at Southeastern and Ball State universities, with plans to expand the number of courses being offered this spring at Southeastern and other universities across the country.
Ross is teaching the course at Southeastern and is also one of three principal investigators on the project.
The Third Way Civics project is consistent with a broader effort in Florida to reinvigorate civics instruction. A new statewide initiative, “Civic Literacy Excellence Initiative,” announced by Gov. Ron DeSantis in July will promote civics education for Florida students and reward classroom educators who choose to participate in advancing civics education in their classrooms. Accordingly, Third Way will help Southeastern cultivate a unique philosophy for civics education that is adaptable to the K-12 setting.
The Third Way Civics project seeks to transcend the ‘civics wars’ and ‘history wars’ that have become flashpoints in secondary and postsecondary education.
“The project was designed to help undergraduates develop the skills to understand the past, present, and possible futures of American democracy, while also exploring their own potential paths toward a personally rewarding yet publicly meaningful life — all while learning to approach disagreements and differences as opportunities for expanding horizons and building relationships,” said Dr. Trygve Throntveit, director of Strategic Partnerships at the Minnesota Humanities Center and co-leader of the Third Way Civics project.
Even in its early phase, the project is gaining national attention. There is a planned meeting to discuss the project at the upcoming Association of American Colleges & Universities’ annual meeting, and several universities have expressed interest in offering the course. A hub is also emerging in Minnesota, led by Minnesota State University-Mankato and North Central University (both of which are offering the course this spring).
A discussion is also underway to adapt the course for police officers in training in criminal justice programs, and to offer the course to incarcerated individuals in prison education programs.