The Future of Civics Education

Pairing big city governments with Web 2.0 talent will change the way municipalities will do business. With a healthy infusion of technologists’ skills and sensibilities, some city operations could end up looking more like those of a start-up than of government. At least, such is the hope of Code for America, an incipient venture that beginning in January 2011 will send out teams of designers, researchers, and developers to work for five different cities for 11 months. These fellows’ projects could improve cities’ accessibility, transparency, and efficiency, though as of yet there are not many examples of what form specific projects may take.

Code for America has received endorsements from leading figures in the pioneering of the social web, including the founders of Facebook and Flickr and the co-founder of Twitter. If its projects prove successful, the organization could generate heightened popular interest in open government. And if Web 2.0 initiatives begin to change the character of local and state democracy, so too will they change the face of civics education. Projects like Understanding Fiscal Responsibility and Let Freedom Swing could lay the groundwork for civics curricula that encourage the creation, not just consideration, of solutions to government.