Monthly Archives: November 2003

measuring civic engagement

My organization, CIRCLE, promotes a set of 19 "core

indicators of civic engagement" as a way of measuring

the level of engagement of any youthful group or community,

and also as a way of assessing the civic impact of a program, class,

or project. These 19 indicators were chosen after an elaborate national

research project managed by Scott Keeter, Cliff Zukin, Molly Andolina,

and Krista Jenkins, who talked to practitioners and young people in

focus groups and then conducted a national survey. Despite its empirical

rigor, their list of indicators provokes an interesting and important

controversy. I have heard the following views expressed:

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websites that calculate ideology

In response to yesterday’s post about websites that will calculate

your ideology for you, Nels Lindahl

emailed me about a site called The

Political Compass. This is the most sophisticated and thoughtful

example of the genre, in my opinion. One of its great virtues is its

two-dimensional understanding of ideology, which is much better than

a simple left-right scale. I took the quiz and came out as a moderately

leftist social libertarian, similar to Nelson Mandela and the Dalai

Lama. I’m happy to accept that score.

political ideology websites

This summer, I began work on a website that would ask visitors some

questions and then tell them their ideology. I got caught up with the

technical difficulties and never completed the project. However, I believe

it could be useful, since most people I know use ideology as a heuristic.

That is, we don’t have the time to make a very precise and nuanced evaluation

of each candidate for each office. Instead, we start with the assumption

that we are liberals, conservatives, moderates, libertarians, feminists,

environmentalists, or proponents of some other ideology, and then we

use cues in the candidates’ speech and behavior to decide which politicians

come closest to our ideology. CIRCLE surveys show that those young people

who have no ideology do not vote, which suggests that this shortcut

is essential.

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American radicals in Iraq

In his Washington Post column

today, E.J. Dionne writes, "Our foreign policy debate right now

pits radicals against conservatives. Republicans are the radicals.

Democrats are the conservatives." Republicans want to

remake the world to match abstract ideals; Democrats are concerned about

traditional alliances and institutions, unintended consequences, and

appropriate limits on national power. In recent blog entries, I’ve been

claiming that Democrats and "progressives" represent the more

conservative voice in many areas of domestic policy. Dionne is making

the same argument about foreign policy (writ large).

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public work in Iraq

Today is the beginning of CIRCLE‘s

annual Advisory Board meeting, when we present our year’s work for review.

Meanwhile, I recommend this long but excellent radio

program about neighborhood councils in Baghdad.

(Thanks to Archon Fung for spreading

the word about it.) At least once a week, I read an article about Americans

and/or Iraqis who are improvising public services or creating democratic

forums in Iraq. Even though the Army is a hierarchical and bureaucratic

organization with a partly violent purpose, many of our soldiers seem

to have a great capacity for improvisation and diplomacy and a deep

understanding of liberal democratic ideals. There are plenty of stories

about poor planning at the highest levels of our government (and in

the Iraqi Governing Council), and about the inadequate training of the

occupation forces; but these stories don’t detract from the work that’s

being done by at least some of our rank-and-file servicemen and women.

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