5 January 2004
TO: American Democracy Project participants
FROM: George L. Mehaffy
SUBJECT: American Democracy Project - Democracy Lab
Happy New Year!
As we begin another year with the American Democracy Project, I wanted to remind everyone of a very
innovative opportunity for your students. In Spring 2004, there will be three on-line, moderated forums for
students about contemporary issues in American society. This program offers opportunities for students
from many different campuses to meet together electronically, exchanging ideas and discussing
perspectives. The cost to participate is $ 25 per student for this 10 week experience.
The program can be used by students in a variety of classes as an enrichment activity or as part of a
course. Campuses participating could also increase the robustness of this project by providing
companion, supportive activities on campus, such as a campus forum or other event focusing on the
Some specific ideas about this program:
1) Course-based online forums are designed for integration into a course as a requirement for all students
in the course, with students required to purchase Democracy Lab just as they would be required to
purchase a supplemental book. Instructions for online purchase will be sent to participating
instructors. Online forums begin February 2 and conclude April 16.
2) Instructors may enroll large classes or multiple sections.
3) While many classes will focus on the subject matter of the forum, other classes
(speech/communication, for example) will also (or primarily) focus on the process of deliberation and
deliberative learning. This diversity of perspectives is not only acceptable but desirable.
Jim Knauer will be happy to talk or correspond with anyone having additional questions.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 814-238-3307. Reservations can be made online at www.teachingdemocracy.org.
Click on Democracy Lab.
I think this is an imaginative and creative idea, and hope that a number of the American Democracy
Project campuses will want to be involved. I'm excited about the possibilities that this kind of project
might have to provide a model for increased engagement by our students.
I urge you to consider participating in this initiative.
The attachment has all of the contact information but I also wanted to provide it here as well.
James T. Knauer
Director, Center for Civic Life
Professor of Political Science
Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania
Lock Haven, PA 17745
Voice: 570-893-2491 Fax:570-893-2711
Honors Program: www.lhup.edu/honors
Teaching Democracy: www.teachingdemocracy.org
A Web Resource for Teaching and Learning about Democracy
A vibrant democracy requires engaged citizens. The Center for Civic Life at Lock Haven
University of Pennsylvania presents Democracy Lab, an exciting new resource that promotes
civic engagement, develops student civic leadership and helps transform campus climate. We
are pleased to announce our online public issue forums for spring 2004 classes. Easily
integrated into courses in a wide range of disciplines and at all undergraduate levels,
Democracy Lab forums may be adopted by instructors for student purchase at the reasonable
price of $25. Using a 10-week agenda based on our successful fall 2002 pilot, Students and the
World, Democracy Lab brings a powerful civic education experience into your existing courses.
From dialogue to inquiry to action: In Democracy Lab forums, small deliberation groups bring
together 15-20 students from across the country, providing a much greater diversity of voices
than in any classroom. Moderator announcements guide students through a dialogue agenda –
making personal introductions, deliberating the pros and cons of different approaches, posing
questions for research, sharing and discussing the results of inquiry, identifying common ground
for action and considering action possibilities. Dialogue occurs on discussions boards available
24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Three Online Forums are available for spring 2004:
By the People: Americans’ Role in the World (A National Issues Forum book)
Terrorism, the war in Iraq, free trade and global warming are just a few of the issues considered as
students deliberate the pros and cons of four perspectives, each with its own set of priorities: 1.
Maintaining military strength and using it unilaterally if necessary, 2. Spreading democracy, 3.
Expanding global free trade, 4. Attacking global environmental and health problems multilaterally.
Racial and Ethnic Tensions: What Should We Do? (A National Issues Forum book)
The merits of immigration restrictions, affirmative action and English-language instruction are
considered as students weigh the pros and cons of three approaches: 1. Our society should be
color-blind and focus on what unites us rather than on differences. 2. First we must build racial
and cultural identity and pride within the many groups that comprise American society. 3. We
must complete the job of integration which is the only way to end prejudice.
Three American Futures: What Direction Should We Take?
Considering competing conceptions of three traditional American values, freedom, equality and
democracy, students weigh the relative merits of three paths toward an American democracy for
the 21st century: 1. Reducing the power of government to increase individual freedom, 2. Using the
power of government to equalize the life chances of all individuals, 3. Reinvigorating democracy by
increasing the power of average people in their communities and workplaces.
Democracy Lab is a convenient and flexible way to engage students in public affairs and to help
them acquire active citizenship skills while enhancing their capacity to meet rigorous academic
standards. To maximize campus impact, consider involving courses in two or three disciplines
and holding a campus or community forum on the issue. Democracy Lab also provides training
and mentoring for Student Civic Leadership Teams which can play a key role in conducting
Democracy Lab is an ideal curricular tool for universities participating in the AASCU American
Democracy Project and for all colleges and universities seeking to integrate civic education into
their curriculum. Space is limited; reservations are required. Preference will be given to
courses that add disciplinary variety and to schools that increase demographic diversity. For
additional information visit the Center for Civic Life website at www.teachingdemocracy.org and
click on Democracy Lab. Reserve now online. Direct inquiries to Dr. James Knauer at The
Center for Civic Life: email@example.com or 570-893-2491.