At the University of Illinois last week, I was struck by how much leaders with vision in higher education understand that the broader citizenry needs to be brought into the conversation about public policies and purposes. We have some precedents to build on.

Schools play the greatest role in sustaining the idea of democracy—and for this reason, we must rethink the qualities a public school should have.

Discussing and advancing democratic habits can help us move from objects of change to agents of change. And the process needs democratic habits of work, a focus on "hands" as well as "mind," and also "heart," democratic patriotism different than "global citizenship," and love of our society and its democratic potential.

Deborah Meier describes the five "habits of mind," the basis of Boston's Mission Hill School.

Today, when higher education faces ferocious attack, we need a broad movement to revitalize the democratic purposes and practices of colleges and universities -- for the sake of the whole society.

The opinions expressed in Bridging Differences are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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