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All Politics Is Local: Teaching Urban Studies to Suburban Students

Chapter 11: All Politics Is Local: Teaching Urban Studies to Suburban Students

Constance A. MixonElmhurst College

In the twenty-first century, cities and their metropolitan regions are leading the charge to address many of our most pressing local, national, and global challenges. As our world becomes more and more urban, interdisciplinary programs of urban studies are poised to lead the inquiry into the central questions of our democracy. As such, postsecondary coursework in urban studies is poised to be at the forefront of preparing citizens for their responsibilities in an increasingly urban and globalizing world.

While a great deal has been written about the role of political science in promoting and fostering civic engagement and citizenship, very little (if any) attention has been paid to the urban subfield, much less to the interdisciplinary field of urban studies, which can provide a foundation for fruitful civic action and engagement. Embedded in the name “city,” which comes from the Latin “civitas,” is a history of citizenship and shared community responsibility. The study of cities is the study of citizenship. This chapter provides evidence that an interdisciplinary urban studies program, with a focus on active and participatory learning, at a private liberal arts college in a wealthy suburb of Chicago, increases civic and political engagement and pluralistic orientations among students.

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About the Author

Constance Mixon is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Urban Studies Program at Elmhurst College. In 2001, she was nominated by her students, and named the Illinois Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. She has also received the APSA’s Pi Sigma Alpha National Award for Outstanding Teaching. In addition to publishing several journal articles and book chapters, she is a co-editor of Twenty-First Century Chicago, which investigates the social, economic, political, and governmental challenges facing Chicago. Mixon frequently provides political commentary and analysis for local and national media outlets, including the Associated Press, NBC, WGN, FOX and PBS. She also regularly presents at regional and national conferences on topics related to teaching and civic and political engagement.  

Teaching Civic Engagement Across the Disciplines / Copyright ©2017 by the American Political Science Association / pp: 151-167