Friday, September 16, 2005

Civic Purposes of Schools

The Civic Purposes of Schools.

It is not enough to just give more tests.

Recognizing that individuals do not automatically become free and responsible citizens but must be educated for citizenship, there has been in recent years a growing call for new strategies that can capitalize on young peoples idealism while addressing their disengagement from political and civic institutions so that we can
better preserve and enhance Americas tradition of citizen involvement. How to achieve this goal, however, has been a matter of considerable debate among experts representing various perspectives and disciplines. Political scientists, for example, focus on the political; educators focus on what happens in or near the classroom;
service-learning advocates focus on service and volunteering; and youth development specialists focus on the developmental experience of the young person.
In short, there has been common interest in increasing youth civic engagement but no common ground as to how to do this effectively.
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For more than 250 years, Americans have shared a vision of a democracy in which all citizens understand, appreciate, and engage actively
in civic and political life. In recent decades, however, increasing numbers of Americans have disengaged from civic and political institutions such as voluntary associations, religious congregations, community-based organizations, and political and electoral activities such as voting and being informed about public issues. Young people reflect these trends: they are less likely to vote and are less interested in political
discussion and public issues than either their older counterparts or young people of past decades. As a result, many young Americans may not be prepared to participate fully in our democracy now and when they become adults.
Recognizing that individuals do not automatically become free and responsible citizens but must be educated for citizenship, scholars; teachers; civic leaders; local, state, and federal policymakers; and federal judges, have with the encouragement of the president of the United States, called for new strategies that can capitalize on young people’s idealism and their commitment to service and voluntarism
while addressing their disengagement from political and civic institutions. One of the most promising approaches to increase young
people’s informed engagement is school-based civic education.
In late 2002, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) and Carnegie Corporation of New York,
in consultation with the Corporation for National and Community Service, convened a series of meetings involving some of the nation’s most
distinguished and respected scholars and practitioners in this area to determine, based on solid data and evidence, the components of
effective and feasible civic education programs. Representing a diversity of political views, a variety of disciplines, and various approaches,
these individuals disagree about some aspects of how civic education should be conducted, but nevertheless share a common vision of
a richer, more comprehensive approach to civic education in the United States. This report is a powerful statement of their vision.
Civic education should help young people acquire and learn to use the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will prepare them to be competent
and responsible citizens throughout their lives. Competent and responsible citizens:
1 are informed and thoughtful; have a grasp and an appreciation of history and the fundamental processes of American democracy; have an understanding and awareness of public and community issues; and have the ability to obtain information, think critically, and enter into dialogue among others with different perspectives.
2 participate in their communities through membership in or contributions to organizations working to address an array of cultural, social, political, and religious interests and beliefs.
3 act politically by having the skills, knowledge, and commitment needed to accomplish public purposes, such as group problem solving, public speaking, petitioning and protesting, and voting.
4 have moral and civic virtues such as concern for the rights and welfare of others, social responsibility, tolerance and respect, and belief in the capacity to make a difference.
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