The Roots of Existential Citizenship

As a research project for one of my classes as a doctoral student, I chose to review the extensive literature in political science on the effectiveness of civics education. The results of this review were both definitive and alarming, demonstrating that the way civics are usually taught actually decreases citizen knowledge, interest, and participation. However, sprinkled throughout this literature was also work that showed specific tactics which actually enhance citizen engagement.

With this information, I developed a unique course design for Introduction to American Government from the ground up, incorporating these principles as much as possible. I have since taught and refined this course design over many semesters. My experiences with this approach have been nothing short of remarkable, and have continually reaffirmed what I found in my initial research.

Existentialism and political engagement

What I did not expect, though, was to gradually see how much these pedagogical principles resonated with existentialism. The more I worked with my students as they engaged directly with government and politics, often for the first time in their lives, the more the effectiveness of existentialism as the basis of meaningful political action became apparent. These personal experiences with my students over the years are the basis of my assertion of existentialism as not only the best but the only valid orientation for enduring meaningful political action.