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January 4, 2007

the Maryland Civic Summit

Annapolis, MD: We at CIRCLE helped to plan the State of Maryland's Summit on Civic Literacy, which occurred today. The Summit was funded and charged by an act of the State Assembly. There were representatives present from the State Senate and House, the judiciary (including the Chief Judge), the State Department of Education, and various key nonprofits. We heard a great keynote talk by my University of Maryland colleague James Gimpel, the lead author of one of the best books about how young Americans develop into citizens, Cultivating Democracy: Political Environments & Political Socialization in America (Brookings, 2003). Jim was quite eloquent about the enormous educational disparities between inner-city Baltimore and the suburbs of Washington, DC. See his book for vivid details.

The afternoon's session was devoted to deliberation. We formed policy recommendations for the Assembly to consider. I moderated the discussion. Participants were supposed to vote electronically using touchpads, but the equipment didn't work. No matter; we still deliberated and recorded everyone's preferences. My two favorite ideas (but not the top vote-winners) were:

1) Collect data about the after-school opportunities that are available to our students throughout the state. I suspect that this research would identify big disparities and thus make the case for significant legislation.

2) On a pilot basis, create a few new positions in select schools. These new employees would connect students to external opportunities--field trips, special programs, internships, service projects, etc. (It can be very hard for outside institutions to navigate schools, and vice-versa; but museums, courts, colleges, environmental organizations, churches, and many other groups have educational opportunities to offer.)

January 4, 2007 5:20 PM | category: advocating civic education | Comments


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