Civic Engagement in American Democracy

Start Date: 03/24/2019

Course Type: Common Course

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About Course

So how does the American political system work? Who are some of the key actors? What are key concepts for a student trying to understand what’s going on? How can I as a citizen influence politics? Civic Engagement in American Democracy takes on these and other key questions. We’re Dr. Nicholas Carnes and Dr. Bruce Jentleson, the principal course instructors. Along with our Duke faculty colleagues who also contributed modules, we’ve designed the course to provide a strong foundational introduction to US politics. If you’re new to this material, proceed through the modules one by one and build up your knowledge of politics and government. If some of the material is familiar, go ahead and set your own pace. Either way we hope Civic Engagement in American Democracy helps you be an effective student in more advanced politics courses and/or an engaged citizen in 21st century America.

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Course Introduction

So how does the American political system work? Who are some of the key actors? What are key concept

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Civic engagement In January 2012, the U.S. Department of Education issued a road map and a call to action entitled "Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy " that offers nine steps to enhancing the Department of Education's commitment to civic learning and engagement in democracy.
Civic engagement To answer this challenge, the incorporation of service-learning into collegiate course design has gained acceptance as a pedagogy that links curricular content with civic education. In a recent study, students who participated in service learning even one time appear to have made gains in knowledge of and commitment to civic engagement when compared to non-service learners. Campus Compact, a coalition of nearly 1200 college presidents (as of 2013) promotes the development of citizenship skills by creating community partnerships and providing resources to train faculty to integrate civic and community-based learning into the curriculum. Building on the acceptance of service learning and civic engagement in higher education, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement in Teaching created the Political Engagement Project in 2003 to develop the political knowledge and skills of college-aged students. The American Democracy Project (ADP) was launched in the same year by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). The American Democracy Project was joined by the American Democracy Commitment, a partnership of community colleges, to sponsor an annual national conference focused on higher education's role in preparing the next generation of informed, engaged citizens. The American Democracy Project also sponsors campus-based initiatives including voter registration, curriculum revision projects, and special days of action and reflection, such as the MLK Day of Service. In a report entitled," A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy's Future "issued in 2012 by the National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement, a joint project of the U.S. Department of Education and the American Association of Colleges and Universities, the authors argue that higher education must serve as an intellectual incubator and socially responsible partner in advancing civic learning and democratic engagement.
Civic engagement Civic engagement applied within the state is not possible without local civic engagement. As in a democratic society, citizens are the source to give life to a representative democracy. Application of this principle can be found within programs and laws that states have implemented based in a variety of areas concerns for that particular state. Health, education, equality, immigration are a few examples of entities that civic engagement can shape within a state.
Civic engagement Civic engagement or civic participation, according to the American Psychological Association, is "individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern". It can be defined as citizens working together to make a change or difference in the community. Civic engagement includes communities working together in both political and non-political actions. The goal of civic engagement is to address public concerns and promote the quality of the community.
Civic engagement Many universities, like the University of Minnesota, have begun to focus on increasing the civic engagement of students and have mandated that educators begin incorporating it into several school activities. Edwin Fogelman, author of "Civic Engagement at the University of Minnesota," states that true civic engagement can only be practiced by those living within a Democracy. According to Fogelman, civic engagement is largely shaped by schools. Education institutions have the skills to foster "civic competence, critical thinking, and Public Spirit, which empower citizens to become engaged". Many claim that civic engagement ought to become part of the curriculum and that higher education institutions should provide opportunities to become engaged such as internships, service-learning, and community based activities. Institutions also need to provide outlets where students can have open discussions over concerns and controversial issues.
Civic engagement Civic engagement can take many forms—from individual volunteerism, community engagement efforts, organizational involvement and government work such as electoral participation. These engagements may include directly addressing a problem through personal work, community based, or worked through the institutions of representative democracy. Many individuals feel a sense personal responsibility to actively engage as a sense of obligation to their community. "Youth civic engagement" has similar aims to develop the community environment and cultivate relationships, although youth civic engagement places an emphasis on empowering youth.
Civic engagement A study published by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement at Tufts University, divided civic engagement into three categories: civic, electoral, and political voice. Scholars of youth engagement online have called for a broader interpretation of civic engagement that focuses on the purpose behind current institutions and activities and include emerging institutions and activities that achieve the same purposes. These civic engagement researchers suggest that the reduction of civic life into small sets of explicitly electoral behaviors may be insufficient to describe the full spectrum of public involvement in civic life.
Civic engagement Civic engagement can foster community participation and government involvement.
Civic engagement One of the main factors that determine civic engagement among the people is voter turnout. Voter turnout gauges citizens' level of political involvement, an important component of civic engagement—and a prerequisite for maintaining public accountability.
Civic engagement Some schools such as Widener University, have made civic engagement a core goal of the university. The university strives to get students involved in the local community to become more aware and civically engaged. (Civic Engagement And Service Learning In A Metropolitan University: Multiple Approaches And Perspectives).
Civic engagement A Civic Engagement reform arose at the beginning of the 21st Century after Robert Putnam's provocative book, Bowling Alone, brought to light changes in civic participation patterns. Putnam argued that despite rapid increases in higher education opportunities that may foster civic engagement, Americans were dropping out of political and organized community life. A number of studies suggested that while more youth are volunteering, fewer are voting or becoming politically engaged.
Civic engagement The goal for state government in elections is to promote civic engagement. Director Regina Lawrence of Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life states "Politics and all other forms of engagement are really about trying to make your community, your state, and your nation a better place to live."
Civic engagement Civic engagement, interpersonal trust, and television use – Social capital has been on the decline for years and Putman looked into why this is. One of the areas the study covered was television and its effects on social and civic engagements. Shah writes that Putnam found the more TV a person watches, the less they are active in outside activities. This is shown with the rise of TV in the 60s and the fall of civic engagements. They found that though news and educational programming can actually aide in a citizen's knowledge, but the lack of engaging in outside activities and social events hurts civic engagement in general.
Civic engagement According to ICMA: Leaders at the Core of Better Communities, these are the benefits of civic engagement:
American Democracy Project (AASCU initiative) The American Democracy Project (ADP) is an initiative of AASCU campuses that seeks to create an intellectual and experiential understanding of civic engagement for undergraduates enrolled at institutions that are members of AASCU. The goal of the project is to produce graduates who understand and are committed to engaging in meaningful actions as citizens in a democracy.
Civic engagement Civic engagement has an interrelated relationship within the various entities of the state. Through the values, knowledge, liberties, skills, ideas, attitudes and beliefs the population holds, civic engagement cultivates and shapes the state to be a representation of vast cultural, social, and economic identities.
Civic engagement Voter Turnout ensures civic engagement among the state with incentives that promises volunteer organizations, charity, and political involvement with everyone in the community who will have a voice to be heard.
Civic engagement Their research included critical examination of the degree of involvement by the public in healthcare decision making. It is suggested that "public participation in decision making can promote goals, bind individuals or groups together, impart a sense of competence and responsibility and help express political or civic identity". The action of the citizens aimed at influencing decisions of representatives ultimately affects the state as a whole. Voting is a key component in civic engagement for the voice of the masses to be heard.
American Democracy Project (AASCU initiative) Each of the initiatives deals with some critical national issue. Many of the initiatives use a case study as a way to illustrate the concerns and processes at work. The Civic Engagement in Action Series has developed and will continue to develop a variety of materials, program ideas, and recommendations for all campuses participating in the American Democracy Project.
Civic engagement The state can help promote civic engagement by ensuring fair voter and redistricting processes; by building partnerships among government agencies, non-profit organizations, and private citizens; and by maintaining networks of information about volunteer and charitable opportunities.