two op-eds on civic engagement

I am on a winter vacation and not blogging, but two op-eds of mine have been published this week:

High school students still read in textbooks about how the legislature is designed to work, and how government depends on the consent of the governed. But Congress passes virtually no bills, and almost all adults seem to despise the government.  …

This is compounded by another problem. At times in our history, we have seen people distrust the national government but trust one another. That combination encourages populist reform proposals like term limits, referenda, and campaign finance reform that increase the people’s control over the government. However, today we are living in a time when Americans trust “the people” almost as little as they trust the government in Washington….

If you grow up not trusting the government and not trusting your fellow Americans, you will not admire the political system, but you will also be unmoved by proposals to reform it by empowering the people. That combination is a recipe for cynicism and withdrawal. Unless we want to live in that environment of distrust and suffer its consequences for many decades to come, we must change the situation quickly. …

In schools that serve low-income and minority students, kids are less likely to experience interactive civic education, meaning discussion of current events, participation in school governance and school media, field trips and simulations, such as mock trials. In schools that serve economically diverse students, those who are headed to college tend to get most of these interactive experiences. And in schools that serve several different racial groups in significant proportions, discussions of current events are particularly rare.

About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.
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