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Making Civics Real Workshop 6: Civic Engagement  
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Workshop 6

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Teacher Perspectives
Student Perspectives
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Teacher Perspectives: Lesson goal

Bill Mittlefehldt: Today's kids are intellectually narrow, emotionally flat, and politically disengaged. They are obese and anorexic. They are depressed and violent. But these symptoms suggest that they need to be grounded in the on-going drama of their community. They need to be grounded in the issues of their tribe. Without the challenge to be civically engaged, they may become passive consumers of empty, but nicely packaged, lives.

Today's communities suffer from numerous problems that are unaddressed by our political leaders. Business health, community health, and environmental health all need addressing. Unfortunately, we cannot buy the solution to these problems. They must be built in each community.

The excitement about what we are doing in civic education comes from the fact that we are expanding the curriculum to include community issues. And we are enlarging the teaching team beyond the school walls to allow other concerned and motivated adults to ground kids in the drama of their own locale. The businesses, communities, and environment will only get better if we have more understanding and collaboration. This is where kids come in.

Service implies putting a short-term solution to a small, short-term problem. This is bigger than that in scope. It builds on the accurate sense of change and how our institutions are failing to keep up. We need curriculum and instructional vehicles like these to literally invite kids to share their civic engagement with others who share their commitment to the future. We need the kids' help now. And the kids need the community's help now. The school can be the institution to broker these needs with curriculum design and instructional strategies. The community offers perspective in terms of current data, dimensions of the problem, associated issues, other organizations and partners, and especially maps. Maps invite the kids to get grounded.

Civic engagement is more important than simple service learning. Curriculum and instructional systems can link the needs of students and the needs of the community.


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