counter-cultural politics

I ended my AERA presentation last week by saying that the best thing about good youth civic programs is not their impact on the kids whom they engage, nor the chance that they may increase political equality. The best thing about them is that they embody an alternative kind of politics. Excellent classroom discussions of controversial issues, service-learning projects, and youth media-production or youth-led research create examples that help to move the whole society …

  • From the prevailing “deficit model,” in which students (and adult populations, too) are treated as problems or victims, toward a model of people as contributors.
  • From a specialist understanding of education (in which professional teachers educate and kids are measured on tests) to an understanding of education as a community’s task (in which schools play one important role).
  • From a sense that all investments are mobile and contingent to an attitude of commitment.
  • From a government-centered view of politics–in which the main controversy is what the government should and shouldn’t do–to a citizen-centered view, in which the question is how we define and address our problems.
  • From an understanding of politics as zero-sum distribution to an understanding of politics as creativity and the making of meaning.
  • From manipulative or strategic politics to politics as open-ended deliberation about what ought to be done.

My colleagues and I have made these points before, but I was expressly asked to list them on my blog–and here they are.