Today’s the day that the National Conference on Citizenship releases its new Civic Health Index and an accompanying report entitled Broken Engagement. My colleagues and I at CIRCLE analyzed the data for the Index–combining 40 different measures of civic participation–and helped to write the report, which depicts an erosion of public life over the last quarter century. Particularly striking to me is the big drop in the proportion of Americans who say that they work with others to address community problems–down from about 45% in the 1970s to about 25% in the current decade. The rate of membership in groups has not fallen. Put those two facts together, and it seems that groups have become less likely to promote community problem-solving. We belong to more mailing lists and dispersed professional associations, but fewer grassroots organizations.
Speakers at the launch of the report will include Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; former Senator Harris Wofford; Harvard professor Robert Putnam; John Bridgeland, formerly of the Bush administration; columnist E. J. Dionne; and Irasema Salcido, founder of the Chavez Charter School in Washington. I have several radio interviews scheduled to discuss the Index, and here is a Time Magazine piece about it.
[See also Amy Goldstein’s piece in the Washington Post.]