Building a Democracy: Civic Education and Social Change

Document Type


Presentation Date


Conference Name

Midwest Political Science Association Seventieth Annual Conference

Conference Location

Chicago, IL

Peer Review



The paper draws on research I conducted in the Kyrgyz Republic. I describe two ambitious education programs conducted by an American NGO. The first is a democracy promotion curriculum designed for high school students, which emphasized debates, discussions, and group work. The curriculum was meant to foster in students a particular subjectivity, one that values free speech and critical thinking—traits the creators deem necessary in citizens of a democracy. The second case study is a workshop that was held for adult members of election commissions. The workshop was designed, like the civics curriculum, to inculcate democratic values. It was also meant to inform election commission members of important changes to the election code, changes meant to guarantee fair elections. In the paper, I explore the varied responses to these projects from their Kyrgyz participants and observers. These studies reveal the complexities of western-directed development efforts and offer a sobering reminder of the challenges facing those who are trying to foster democratic culture in the former Soviet Union.


Former Soviet Union, Kyrgyz Republic, democracy, development, education


Social and Cultural Anthropology | Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies

This document is currently not available here.