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October 7, 2003

civic education day

Today was a day for thinking about civic education from several different angles. I participated in a Steering Committee meeting of the National Alliance for Civic Education; reviewed research grant proposals submitted to CIRCLE (on aspects of youth civic engagement); and worked on my own application to the National Endowment for the Humanities. This proposal is due next week, so I'm focusing a lot of my on budgetary and other practical details. (My colleagues and I are applying to replicate our high school students' unusual oral history project in several sites, including Jackson, Mississippi and Miami, Florida. The proposed topic is segregation and desegregation in local school districts, during the period 1954-2004. Students will interview surviving witnesses, think of several alternative strategies that could have been adopted in 1954, and create interactive websites to help community members think about what should have been done. That's not an easy question, since each strategy would involve different risks and tradeoffs.)

Coincidentally, I was recently asked to write an article on the following topic: "Civic involvement and democracy in the scholarly communication commons." I proposed this tentative abstract, inspired by the history work:

There are many projects underway that help non-scholars to create sophisticated intellectual products for free dissemination on the Web. Some of these projects enlist disadvantaged adolescents, a group that's particularly distant from traditional, professional researchers. So far, there are neither aggregate poll data nor experimental results that would help us to measure the effects of such projects on the participants or their target audiences. However, those of us who are working in this area hope for several benefits. Participants should gain civic skills and values as a result of creating public goods. They should also gain academic and technical skills and interest in attending college. They should develop an understanding of the digital commons and thereby enlarge the political constituency for policies that protect the commons. Meanwhile, communities should gain from the materials generated by diverse new groups; and powerful research universities should benefit from new opportunities to collaborate with students in their vicinity. As a result, it should be possible to persuade universities to use some of their research resources for projects that would increase youth civic engagement.

October 7, 2003 12:38 PM | category: a high school civics class | Comments


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