Civic Engagement and the Copernican Moment

David Scobey, executive dean of The New School for Public Engagement, provides a seeable present: the state of higher education a decade into the 21st century and sorely in need of change. Evoking a paradigm shift on the scale of Copernicus’s discovery that the sun, not the earth, is the center of the universe, Scobey adjures, “there is widespread agreement that higher education faces a sea change in its intellectual, technological, and economic organization.”

Here, Scobey focuses on the ramifications of this shift for public scholarship. He commends civically-engaged pedagogies as energizing responses to stultified academic practices. However, he takes engaged scholars and artists to task for not fully understanding the impact of higher educational changes that affect, us as well. His remarks are concise, sobering, and rallying, summarizing fundamental changes in higher education, cajoling us to pay attention to the “new normal,” and challenging public scholars and artists to discover appropriate responses for now.

Fittingly, for a text oriented to higher education’s changing present and future, a cohort of 2011-2012 PAGE (Publicly Active Graduate Education) Fellows has composed a group response to Scobey’s talk. We thus continue IA’s practice of inviting young scholars to enter the discourse around the Foreseeable Future text of a senior scholar, initiated in 2009 by Adam Bush, now PAGE director.



Cover image:
Nick Sousanis, excerpt, “Mind the Gaps,” visual essay, chapter in Vinz & Schaafsma Narrative Inquiry, Teachers College Press, 2011. It can also be found here: