As I move from one workplace to another, I am now even more solidly in the realm of education and schools. We tend to frame educational outcomes as those that most serve the needs of individuals students. And if you are concerned about equity, you want to make sure that ALL students have the skills and capacities to have successful lives. But reflecting on the workplace I just left, I am pondering what does it mean to educate for not just the individual good, but the public good? What does it mean to create “citizens,” those who act civically, and are not just successful agents for themselves?
Clearly the students in Parkland learned citizen lessons. Many of them say they learned these lessons in school. The civil rights leaders of the 50s and 60s learned these lessons in churches and communities. The Dreamers’ citizen lessons have emerged through lived experience and solidarity with each other. What does it mean to create educational spaces that educate for civic and collective outcomes? One guide I am revisiting was a set of 10 civic capabilities that I worked on with my former colleagues at CIRCLE. The genesis came from Amartya Sen and later Martha Nussbaum. I still think striving to build and create space for these capabilities in young people, us all really, is essential. All youth should have these essential civic capabilities:
- Voice: Being able to form, express, and reflect on diverse views on social issues.
- Hope and aspiration: Being able to conceive of a better society.
- Practical reason: “Being able to form a conception of the good and to engage in critical reflection about the planning of one’s life. (This entails protection for the liberty of conscience and religious observance.)” (From Nussbaum 2011, p. 34.)
- Civic relationships: Being able to form relationships marked by a degree of respect, loyalty, and trust.
- Affiliation: Being able to join or organize new groups around collective interests, including both groups that reflect particular interests and perspectives as well as groups that bring together a diversity of people.
- Collective decision-making: Being able to participate effectively and responsibly in inclusive group processes that lead to decisions.
- Work: Being able to create, form, and construct concrete objects of public value (physical objects or ideas, policies, etc.).
- Action: Being able to act individually and collectively in the public sphere.
- Value: Being able to see added value in the world around you from your own work, voice, or membership.
- Locus of control: Being able to have fundamental choice, agency, freedom, and mobility regarding decisions that govern one’s life, and being able to access education and work on an equal basis with others in order to exercise practical reason and enter into
I’m currently engaged in a new Collaborative Exploration offered up the the Critical and Creative Thinking Community out of UMass Boston entitled “Young People Designing Their Own Lives.” The case challenges explorers to think about how we might go about helping young people tackle their life design challenges by presenting the concept for a script or book that would guide young folks as they chart their course.
Interestingly, this coincided with a conference session at the National Humanities Conference this past weekend. Folks from the PA Humanities Council talked about their Teen Reading Lounge program. The program has teens read books, discuss them, and then do hands on activities related to the books. The presenter linked the program and the exploration of literature to these key life questions teens are confronting:
- Who am I?
- What is my place in the world?
- What do I believe?
Definitely, important prompts to start a life journey. As I’ve been contemplating this case, I have also been thinking about creative books and activities from my youth. One of the things I loved most when I was young were Colorfoms. I loved having scenes where I could place characters and props. I could rearrange and reconfigure infinitely. I was free to orient, overlap, and edit. At the same time, I had a container or structure that bounded my exploration.
About a year ago, a few of my favorite pre-teens were interested in creating their own “tv show.” I gave them some simple guidelines:
- they each needed to have a character and know what their character was about and how that character related to the other characters
- they needed to have at least 3 settings
- they needed a challenge, task, or mission that they were trying to accomplish
- they could each bring or include one friend in the process
The girls scripted out a basic story line. They knew what each scene was and what they were trying to do. I told them to come to the tv studio ready to act. They should bring any costumes or props that they needed. I then let them design and arrange the various studio sets and furniture how they wanted. I showed them how the green screne worked so they could see the possibilities for creative backgrounds. From these basic elements they created and orchestrated a pretty silly, but cohesive story that was generated out of their own creative mind. It was sort of like Colorform media.
So, as I’m exploring and thinking on this month’s collaborative exploration, I’m contemplating how to go about crafting a basic environment with enough raw materials that might jumpstart the life design mindset of teens. What would this look like? What format — book, script, media production, game? What elements need to be in the mix and what will allow them to productively craft this? What supports or guidance are needed? It is exciting to think about.
I have a new working paper on digital badge and civics released today as part of CIRCLE’s working paper series. The paper explores digital badges and alternative assessments for civic skills, knowledge, and dispositions and is entitled “New and Alternative Assessments, Digital Badges, and Civics: An Overview of Emerging Themes and Promising Directions.” It also considers digital badges as well as ePortfolios, rubrics, games, simulations, and other assessment and learning tools that might expand options for those committed to improving civic education. The working paper is also summarized in an online presentation.
OK, so I recently started working for CIRCLE (http://www.civicyouth.org) and one of my first tasks was to share data and analysis on a recent poll on young Americans 18 to 29 and their attitudes towards the upcoming election , leading policy issues, their involvement with civic organizations, methods that influence their voting behavior and a range of other questions. The data and initial post about this poll can be found here — http://www.civicyouth.org/romney-trails-among-young-adults/.
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