Beth Akers and Joe Pitts at AEI:

In a nation starved of formative institutions, universities are uniquely positioned to repair our civic fabric—if only they take their responsibilities to our country seriously. As of now, many are not. Now, an entrepreneurial movement to reclaim higher learning’s civic calling is beginning to gain steam.


In 2016, then-Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and the state legislature appropriated funds for the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership (SCETL) at Arizona State University (ASU). The new school is dedicated to the “transdisciplinary study of the liberal arts and classic texts with examination of American ideas, institutions, and civic culture; experiential learning in leadership and civic affairs; and the practice of civil discourse.” While the school maintains two undergraduate degrees, a minor, and a certificate, it also teaches civics classes available to all ASU students. Over time, other states and public universities have established similar institutions, such as UT Austin’s Civitas Institute, UT Knoxville’s Institute of American Civics, the University of Florida’s Hamilton Center, and UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Civic Life and Leadership.


SCETL and similar programs have proven a success, with thousands of students taking their course offerings, and a growing number of policymakers and higher education leaders taking interest in their expansion. As our colleagues Benjamin and Jenna Storey recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Some projects will prove unviable; others will be subsumed by the academic status quo. But the ones that succeed make a profound mark on campus.”