Thursday, October 1, 2009

Civic Health in Hard Times

In a September 28, 2009 posting to the Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, Peter Levine, Director of CIRCLE, and John Bridgeland, Chair of the National Conference on Citizenship share recent data about declining civic engagement during the economic downturn.  Levine and Bridgeland are critical of charity and volunteer programs that do not instill lasting civic engagement aimed at addressing root causes of problems:


“To address problems like poverty, we need citizens to do more than serve and give money, important as those acts are. In healthy communities, people also come together to discuss causes and solutions, lead and manage organizations that address poverty, and even invent new programs or groups when necessary.”


Their article has implications for service-learning programs.  It is not enough to provide opportunities to serve if we miss the chance to develop life-long civic engagement skills.  Reflection and examination of the origins of problems are important tools in the service-learning toolkit that can help instill civic habits.  Service-learning organizers must make conscious and deliberate connections between service/volunteering and the more challenging life-long habits of critical thinking, organizing and implementing solutions:


“Creating thousands of new slots for national service volunteers is not enough; these positions must be good for society and for the volunteers. The Act (Kennedy/Hatch Serve America Act) focuses its resources on a few national priorities, including disparities in health care and high school education, and it requires measurements of impact on communities. Meanwhile, the volunteers should obtain civic skills that will make them effective citizens for the rest of their lives. That requires a new focus on the educational aspects of national service—something that was essential to the Civilian Conservation Corps of the Great Depression.”


Click here to read the original: Civic Health in Hard Times


Nate Ivy

Service-Learning Regional Lead

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The CalServe Network posts news and updates of interest to the service-learning field in California. News and updates are drawn from the CalServe List Serve and the National K-12 Service-Learning List Serve and various other sources.