GSE Professor Shares Reimagined Model on Civic Education at National Conference

Every teacher is a civic teacher.

That’s what Dr. Nicole Mirra, Associate Professor of Urban Teacher Education at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education (GSE), and her longtime colleague Dr. Antero Garcia presented at the 2024 South by Southwest (SXSW) EDU Conference & Festival in Austin, Texas, on March 6.

“Anyone that works with young people… knows that we are not okay,” Dr. Mirra said in her opening remarks. “Oftentimes, that leads to a huge push for us to be optimistic, as if the kids are going to make it okay. But we need to start from the fact that something is deeply wrong both in our society and in the way we approach education—specifically, civic education.”

Attended by educators, parents, administrators, policymakers, students, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders, the SXSW EDU Conference & Festival is an annual international learning festival that sparks thought-provoking discussions about the future of education, providing new resources, leading education trends and ready-to-implement strategies.

Dr. Mirra and Dr. Garcia, an associate professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, discussed a model of world-building civic education that would position every teacher as a civic teacher. In their featured session, titled “For the World to Come: Exploding How We Do Civics in Schools,” they explained that for the model to work, there must be ideological commitments to equity and justice. It provides strategies for fostering empathy, inquiry, and social imagination in every classroom.

Civics can support students to build futures worthy of their creativity and passion, rather than just preparing them to navigate today’s precarious democracy, Dr. Mirra and Dr. Garcia said. For this to happen, they explained, traditional approaches to civic education—bound to a narrow range of subjects, grades, and knowledge—must be “exploded.”

“I think it’s really important for us to sit with the idea of civic dread among our young people and think seriously about what that means for the kind of civic education that we offer them,” Dr. Mirra said. “Because civic dread is a completely reasonable response to a world on fire, in many ways.”

View Dr. Mirra’s and Dr. Garcia’s full presentation on YouTube.

The GSE is committed to its Urban Social Justice Teacher Education Program designed to develop teachers to be engaged in and committed to excellence, equity, and social justice. Learn more about our programs.