Pogledaj Full Version : Engaging Young People in Civic Life

Željko Zidarić
28th-May-2012, 01:47 AM
Read online (http://www.scribd.com/doc/57782219/Engaging-Young-People-in-Civic-Life)
or access here (http://muse.jhu.edu/books/9780826516527)
Book review (http://openjournals.libs.uga.edu/index.php/jheoe/article/view/508/439)

Policy for Youth Civic Engagement
Peter Levine and James Youniss

This book went to press soon after young Americans voted at extraordinarily high rates in the presidential primaries of 2008. The turnout rate of citizens under the age of 30 almost doubled that of 2000, the most recent year when there were competitive primaries in both parties (Kirby et al., 2000). As we write, young people are visibly excited, idealistic, and hopeful, as their high rates of volunteering and community service also demonstrate. Yet the turnout increase was uneven: young adults who had never attended college voted at very low rates. The results were still not adequate: more than 80 percent of all young adults did not vote in the primaries. And the uptick may not last. This burst of democratic participation invites us to ask how we can institutionalize the role of youth.

After all, America needs young people to participate in our politics and civil society. Participation is good for them; it gives them a sense of purpose and meaning as well as valuable skills. In this volume, Daniel Hart and Ben Kirshner summarize powerful evidence that civic engagement promotes healthy and successful development. Youth participation is also good for the institutions and communities in which they live. Schools, municipal governments, and neighborhoods function better when they can tap the energy and knowledge of youth, instead of having to control deeply disaffected adolescents.

Civic engagement enhances political equality, too. As Joseph Kahne and Ellen Middaugh argue, people who participate politically receive much more attention from government than those who do not, and this gap rejects differences in resources and social status. To reduce the gap, we must invest in the civic engagement of relatively disadvantaged youth, because extensive evidence shows that the early years are formative.

And civic engagement is essential to sustaining our democracy, as youth learn the pragmatics of citizenship through participation. This form of socialization can occur in school, where students may acquire habits of civil discussion; in neighborhoods, where youth interact with government and civic institutions; and in municipalities, where young residents can contribute to local government.

Civic engagement is the responsibility of society as a whole. Schools are usually given this burden, but political parties must also invite youth to join in. The news and entertainment media must stop portraying youth as a profligate, lost generation and feature youth’s actual accomplishments. In taking up this task, policy makers need not operate in the dark. In this volume, Henry Milner, David Kerr, and Marc Hooghe offer insights from Western Europe, Scandinavia, and Canada, which recognized this challenge some time ago and inaugurated programs that the United States might try to model.

This book brings together a coherent synthesis of current research and thinking about policies for enhancing civic and political engagement in America’s youth. These strategies and recommendations are unusual in five respects: They come from frontline researchers who have studied and understood youth within the contemporary political context. They are based on the premise that recent generations of youth are not alienated, deficient in moral character, or lacking in responsibility, but are ready to take advantage of opportunities for participation. They are oriented to the realistic educational, demographic, and political circumstances that necessarily shape the formation of youth’s political identity. They take account of fresh approaches to civic education and political socialization, both of which are needed as bases for effective and realistic policy in the current educational and political climate. They move from the “best practices” that might be adopted by an individual teacher or youth worker to questions of policy. After all, unless we change large-scale investments and incentives, we will never seriously expand opportunities for the civic engagement of all youth.

This book had its origin in a series of small group meetings at which scholars, policy makers, political advocates, and representative of professional associations exchanged insights about current research findings and analyses of policies regarding youth engagement. Trough lively debate and shared expertise, it was agreed that available empirical results could serve as a launching pad for new and constructive policy recommendations. The question then turned to ways in which evidence could be connected to specific recommendations and how best to place research and policy ideas before the public and decision makers with the power to inluence strategies and programs. This book provides answers to these questions.

The participants for the present book were chosen for the constructive nature of their approaches to one of the major issues facing our nation’s democracy: At this moment in history, how ought we to be preparing our youth for active citizenship? We know, from looking at former communist states that suddenly became democracies after 1989, that active citizenship does not arise spontaneously as people age, nor does it result from official pronouncements. We know also from the story of massive immigration that families moving into democratic societies must develop new political responsibilities and opportunities appropriate to their new contexts. Individuals must learn how to form voluntary associations and interest groups, address community problems, participate in political campaigns, lobby elected officials, persistently vote, make their views known to fellow citizens, and keep abreast of current affairs. Until individuals turn these basic elements into practices, democracy remains an idealized abstraction and citizenship is little more than formal rights and duties not properly exercised.

Increasingly, educators, foundation leaders, scholars, and even politicians are committed to reviving civic education, reshaping political socialization, and altering expectations of youth’s capacities and willingness to participate. They are asking for soundly based arguments, workable solutions, and public education about youth’s potential and older generations’ responsibilities in sustaining our democratic traditions.

This was not the case only a decade or so ago as the nation and much of the West anticipated the coming of the new millennium. The dominant rhetoric atthe time was focused not on solutions but on the problematic status of youth. More than three decades of wide-scale immigration was seen as changing the composition of Western societies and threatening their core values. Consumers of mass media deserted serious, politically relevant programs and publications in favor of light entertainment. Schools, which historically were charged with the task of making new citizens, were seen as failing to communicate basic academic skills, much less providing depth in history, government, or civics. Meanwhile, the rate of voting in the youth cohort, ages 18–28, was in a systematic decline from its high in 1972. A further signal of the problem was found in elite college-bound freshmen who, in contrast to their parents’ generation, placed the acquisition of personal wealth and self-satisfaction above obligations to the community and support for the less fortunate.

The repetition of this array of facts shaped public perception into the belief that something fundamental had gone awry in recent generations. Critics on the political left wondered what had happened to the youthful fire-in-the-belly that had stoked civil rights, antiwar, and environmental movements among the young. All that remained of that era seemed to be antipathy toward politics and an insatiable urge to stoke the consumer culture. Critics on the political right worried that young people were losing respect for fundamental institutions and values and would no longer sacrifice for them. Meanwhile, the media found that emphasizing youth’s foibles intrigued the audience of aging adults who were becoming ever more distant from the actual experiences of growing up in our changing society. Hence, the supposition arose that perhaps contemporary youth were not worth the investment needed to correct warps in their character and were not ready to turn their self-absorbed apathy into patriotic passion.

A close look at the data on American youths’ attitudes, values, and beliefs reveals some troubling trends, such as a deep decline in self-reported interest in public affairs since the 1970s. It also reveals some areas of stability: for example, levels of political knowledge seem to have changed little over the decades. And it reveals some notable improvements, such as a rapid rise in the rate of volunteering among adolescents. The overall picture is mixed, and that itself may surprise some readers who expect a dismal story. In analyzing the downward trends, we doubt that it is helpful to look for causes inside adolescents’ heads. For example, the decline in voter turnout might be a function of reduced political commitment and interest, but it is more likely a symptom of declining partisan competition in American electoral districts.

Research can counter the negative public image of youth and the general pessimism regarding this generation’s ability and will to sustain our democracy. Researchers who have observed youth closely, interviewed them regularly, and tried to understand the daily stresses and strains surrounding them see their subjects in a different light. Instead of focusing on youth’s supposed deficits, they have centered on youth’s capacities, strengths, and future potential. They have seen that when given adequate material and cognitive resources, youth have responded by joining in civic and political action with enthusiasm and seriousness. This insight has allowed their work to rise above the din of despairing commentaries by providing analyses of the conditions that either impede or enhance the mobilization of young people’s political potential.

Željko Zidarić
28th-May-2012, 02:02 AM
Young People & Civic Life (http://www.youngerthinking.com/?p=218)

We care about whether young people get “the news” because of what one can do with the information. News by itself is of little value to the democratic process if young people do not act on it in some way: by voting, by donating, by volunteering, by discussing. This section is an examination of whether and how young people are engaged with civic life. Civic engagement is divided into two parts herein: community engagement (such as volunteering, advocating for a cause, donating money or goods to a cause and attending community meetings) and political engagement (such as voting, volunteering for a campaign or party, joining a political group or communicating with a political representative).

Millennials are interested and engaged in the world around them, both at the local and national level. They report significantly higher rates of participation than their elders in some activities, such as community service and getting political information online, but lower rates in others, such as volunteering for political campaigns and discussing politics with friends and family. Young people are interested in public issues but are highly skeptical of the ability of the political system to address those issues effectively. Schools also play an important role: the available data suggest that the format and approach of civics classes can have significant effects on future participation, and that well-designed service-learning programs can increase civic participation over time.


The importance of asking

A simple but essential factor in young people’s civic participation is asking: young people who are asked by a friend, family member or other connection to participate in an activity are significantly more likely to do so than those who are not. This point is commonsense but its importance cannot be overstated; having institutions and groups that encourage young people to become involved can make dramatic differences in their participation. More (http://cksopher.com/youngerthinking/?page_id=136#why)

Civic engagement is highly correlated with news and Internet use

News use and civic engagement are highly correlated, though the relationship is not necessarily causal. One survey by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) found that across the 19 activities they studied, regular news use was a consistently strong predictor of civic participation. The findings are similar for Internet use: several studies have determined that young people who do not use the Internet regularly are significantly less likely to be involved in civic activities. More (http://cksopher.com/youngerthinking/?page_id=132#notes)

Social network users are more likely to be engaged

Young people who use social networks are significantly more likely to participate in almost every measurement of civic engagement than young people who do not. A study by CIRCLE called “Millennials Talk Politics (http://www.civicyouth.org/?page_id=250)” found that 91% of millennials who used social networking sites had taken at least one civic action, compared to 64% of millennials who did not use social networks regularly. This relationship is likely reciprocal: being interested in civic participation increases social network use, which in turn increase opportunities for civic participation. More (http://cksopher.com/youngerthinking/?page_id=136#internet)

Significant differences in engagement across education and class

There are persistent gaps in civic participation between college-educated and non-college young people and between middle- and upper-class and lower-class young people. Race is notably not as strong a predictor of engagement. A CIRCLE study (http://www.civicyouth.org/?p=327) on this topic makes the compelling suggestion that these gaps “can be explained by opportunities and resources” more than by inherent differences in groups. College students have more opportunities to get involved built into their daily lives, as do wealthier young people who tend to be in college and have access to other institutions. More (http://cksopher.com/youngerthinking/?page_id=132#notes)

High rates of volunteering and community service

Young people are volunteering more than adults today and more than any previous generation of young people in the available recorded history. Volunteerism has increased steadily over the past two decades (since about 1990), and today surveys report that between 70 and 80% of high school seniors have volunteered in the past year. A 2009 study (http://www.ncoc.net/index.php?download=2gpcfl354)from the National Conference on Citizenship found that 43% of all millennials were volunteering regularly (more than once a month), compared to 35% of Baby Boomers. More (http://cksopher.com/youngerthinking/?page_id=136#young)

However, young people’s service is less regular and less consistent over time

Despite high rates of participation, surveys find that young people volunteer less regularly than adults who volunteer. Longitudinal studies also indicate that most young people’s volunteerism drops significantly after college (or high school for non-college youth). This suggests that young people may have fewer opportunities to get involved or be connected to “service cultures” after leaving school. More (http://cksopher.com/youngerthinking/?page_id=136#young)

Diverse participation and the hyper-engaged

The cohort of young people who volunteer is surprisingly diverse across gender and race. CIRCLE has identified a group they call “hyper-engaged,” who are more likely to be current students, urban, African-American, Democratic and from families where parents volunteer. Education of the young person and his or her parents are the strongest predictors of membership in this group. More (http://cksopher.com/youngerthinking/?page_id=136#who)

Why young people volunteer: effectiveness and civic duty

The vast majority of young people report that they volunteer because it is a civic duty and because it is an effective way to address community issues. A Harvard Institute of Politics poll in 2008 (http://www.iop.harvard.edu/var/ezp_site/storage/fckeditor/file/pdfs/fall%20survey%202008/fall_poll_08_-_release.pdf)found that 81% of people 18-24 agreed with the statement that community service is effective “as a way of solving important issues facing your community.” Only 63% said so about political participation. Most young people report volunteering in groups working with or for youth. More (http://cksopher.com/youngerthinking/?page_id=136#why)

A collaborative approach

Several different surveys have found that millennials believe people working in groups are more effective at addressing local and national issues than people acting alone. Their activity seems to support this attitude: young people are more likely to get involved by joining groups, sharing information and volunteering than they are to take individual actions such as donating money or contacting a political representative. More (http://cksopher.com/youngerthinking/?page_id=136#why)


Voting has been increasing, but gains are concentrated among a few groups

The presidential election in 2008 effectively refuted the idea that young people do not vote. Young voter participation made up almost the entire increase in overall national voter turnout in 2008, with 62% of young people with some college experience and 36% of young people with no college experience voting in the election, according to CIRCLE. Young voter turnout has increased consistently over the past decade, with 2008 turnout roughly 11% higher than turnout in the 1996 historical low-point, when no young voters were millennials. Survey data also indicate that gains in millennial voter turnout were concentrated among young women and African Americans. More (http://cksopher.com/youngerthinking/?page_id=138#voting)

Young people are less involved in other political activities

Millennials are significantly less likely than their elders are to engage in other political activities, such as volunteering for a political campaign, donating money, or belonging to a political group. Particular subgroups have different trends, however: young African-Americans are the group most likely to engage in these other activities, and young Latinos are most likely to engage in protests or demonstrations. All young people are more likely than their elders to share information about politics with friends and family using the Internet. More (http://cksopher.com/youngerthinking/?page_id=138#who%20is%20engaged)

Political and community engagement linked among the hyper-engaged

The young people who are most engaged in politics also tend to be the most engaged in community activities. Young people who are engaged in only one of the two are significantly more likely to be engaged in community service than in politics. This suggests that the “hyper-engaged” are not abandoning politics for community activities, but that young people with lighter involvement are overwhelmingly choosing community service and volunteerism over political participation and activism. More (http://cksopher.com/youngerthinking/?page_id=138#who%20is%20engaged)

The “cycle of neglect” is weakened but not broken

A 2005 Harvard Institute of Politics study highlighted (http://www.iop.harvard.edu/var/ezp_site/storage/fckeditor/file/pdfs/Research-Publications/lessons_learned.pdf) “the cycle of neglect, in which young people and candidates ignore each other, presuming that the other is uninterested.” The 2008 election saw substantial increases in the number of young people targeted and contacted by political campaigns, but a large gap remains. A post-election poll found that only about 25% of young people 18-24 had been contacted directly by either presidential campaign. The same poll found that only 53% of four-year college students reported being “encouraged or helped” to register to vote by institutions or groups on campus. More (http://cksopher.com/youngerthinking/?page_id=138#cycle)

Young people understand the importance of politics but are skeptical of system’s effectiveness

Young people’s attitudes about politics are mixed: they understand the importance of politics and public policy, feel it is relevant to their lives, but are highly skeptical both of political leaders’ and the political system’s ability to create change, make decisions and operate effectively. There are several reasons for this: low average political knowledge, disappointing experiences with politics, neglect by political leadership and a distaste for political spin and message management. More (http://cksopher.com/youngerthinking/?page_id=140#cognizant)

Few millennials feel a strong attachment to either political party

Millennials consistently express frustration with the partisanship and negativity of contemporary politics. Though this is a sentiment shared by older Americans, young people appear more affected by it. A poll in the book Generation We found that 89% of young people are not strongly affiliated with either party. If this independence persists over this generation’s lifespan, it will have important effects on the attitude of the electorate and, therefore, on the political system as a whole. More (http://cksopher.com/youngerthinking/?page_id=140#partisanship)

Low political knowledge

Surveys have consistently demonstrated that millennials seem to hold less political and civic knowledge than older Americans and previous generations of young people. Yet at the same time, an overwhelming majority of young people report that they follow government and public affairs at least sometimes. This contradiction is the likely result of some combination of the following: the background knowledge issues discussed earlier about news coverage; failures of schools and civic institutions to teach the context of these topics; a sense that recalling specific facts is unnecessary when the Internet can provide instant answers; and socially desirable response that overestimates young people’s attention to these issues. More (http://cksopher.com/youngerthinking/?page_id=140#knowledge)


Content and teaching method of civics courses can affect future engagement

A 2004 CIRCLE study (http://www.google.com/search?as_q=Themes%20Emphasized%20in%20Social%20St udies%20and%20Civics%20Classes:%20New%20Evidence&lr=lang_en&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8)found that the topics and focus of civics education was correlated with young people’s future attitudes and engagement. A different 2009 longitudinal study from researchers at the University of Maryland found that the use of alternative and interactive teaching methods could have similar effects. The study followed 14-year-olds who took civics classes in middle school in 1999. Those who took classes featuring role-playing, mock debates, field trips to civic institutions or real world opportunities to apply civic skills (such as service-learning) were more likely to be engaged and to read the news regularly—even ten years later in 2009—than those who did not take such classes. More (http://cksopher.com/youngerthinking/?page_id=144#content)

Mandatory service may be counterproductive

Data (http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/recordDetail?accno=ED482966)from the National Center on Education Statistics indicate that students who participated in mandatory community service requirements were no more likely to continue volunteering after high school than their peers who did no service. Only two states currently require community service for all students (Maryland and the District of Columbia), but the available data suggest service programs should be voluntary to increase impact. More (http://cksopher.com/youngerthinking/?page_id=144#service)

Service-learning courses effective but uncommon

A longitudinal study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that students who participated in service-learning programs (where volunteerism is connected to the course subject through special curricula) were more likely than their peers who did not participate to continue volunteering after high school. A 2008 survey found that 68% of high schools offered community service in some form to students, but just 24% offered service-learning, a percentage that has actually declined since 1999, when 32% offered service-learning. More (http://cksopher.com/youngerthinking/?page_id=144#service)