This study analyzes the theoretical and practical political frameworks behind the two main approaches to civic education in America, 'civics' and 'service'. The first focuses on educating students about the formal political process. It is associated with liberal political theory and also with a justice-oriented, distributive politics that in practice has increasingly become consumer-oriented--fights over 'who gets what'. The second, 'service' (or community service or service learning) is associated with communitarian political theory and also with politics known internationally as neo-liberalism or the 'Third Way'. Neither liberalism nor communitarianism has been able to mount a significant alternative to what editors of a recent CJE issue call 'educational Darwinism' in education, in which less powerful groups are losers; to the spread generally of marketplace ways of thinking in every arena of society; or to the increasingly militarist and unilateralist foreign policy of the United States and the UK. Only the articulation of a different politics--best described as populist or civic populist in the United States, and 'popular democratic' in South Africa and elsewhere--can generate the power, political energy, and vision of a serious alternative. Populist politics has a different definition of politics itself, including productive as well as distributive dimensions. It has a different view of civic education, focused on the habits of public work, the skills of empowerment, and democratic organizing for cultural change in government, as well as educational and other mediating institutions. Finally, it has a different foreign policy, based on a patriotism that is internationally oriented and cognizant of global interdependence.