Strategies for Active Citizenship / Edition 1

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Overview

Strategies for Active Citizenship takes the reader to the next level in the evolution of student success. Through real-world application, this text engages the student in a process of personal discovery and equips them to influence the systems and policies that affect their quality of life, their community, and the world at large.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"....It also fosters the belief that the individual has the power to change the system and society..." — Linda Saumell, Ph.D., Miami Dade College

"I am very enthusiastic about the concept of this text and believe it is the 'next step' in the 'student engagement' efforts across the country..." — Daniel J. Cook-Huffman, Juniate College

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780131172951
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall
  • Publication date: 6/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Read an Excerpt

The purpose of this book is to help you enhance the quality of your life and the lives of others within your communities by sharing the skills necessary v to become an active citizen. We welcome you to this exciting journey and commend you for engaging in the process of discovering the unique way that you can help to create a better world! As Albert Schweitzer said, "I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve." We all have gifts to bring to this goal, and we hope that, through this text and course, you will come to believe, as we do, that it is entirely possible for you to radically enhance your self-concept and your ability to use the democratic process in pursuit of your vision for a better world.

This book is concerned with bringing about change, with helping you dream powerful dreams and make those dreams a reality for you, your community, your country, and your world. A common set of skills allows us to be effective in all the roles of our lives. The principles and practices presented in this text will enable you to bring the best that you have to offer to each of those roles. As you build the essential skills presented here, your effectiveness as a student and a learner will carry into your role as a citizen. A healthy democracy requires the participation of informed, thoughtful, and skilled citizens. By training ourselves to become more adept thinkers, writers, speakers, and leaders, we not only gather the tools to excel in many areas of our lives but also become more able to participate in our governance and give voice and direction to our priorities.

As you learn more about yourself and develop your capabilities, you may find great satisfaction in serving to uplift others and helping to solve societal problems. This is the great opportunity of democracy. However, we have reached a critical juncture in the evolution of our democratic system. The active participation of citizens is now necessary for our democracy to function and, indeed, to survive. In this book, we distinguish between traditional community service (or direct service) and political advocacy (or activism), which creates systemic change. Direct service, while meeting immediate and important needs, does not change the long-term effects of damaging government policies. Direct service might include, for instance, the necessary work of building houses for Habitat for Humanity. Engaging in advocacy might lead you to try to influence the U.S. Congress to approve affordable housing programs. Changing the policy that creates the social problems creates "systemic" change, or change to the system. In this text, we present skills for critical thinking and systems thinking, which help us understand the larger context within which societal problems exist and how we can create solutions.

How do you know where to engage in society when the problems in all areas can seem equally compelling and as a whole, overwhelming? Start with your heart! People will most likely be able to sustain action only on an issue that they are passionate about. Our emotions give us clues to where our heart is called. Clarifying our values and what we stand for helps us find issues that express these values. This evaluation is important, however, only if we act. Consider your talents, passions, and interests, and go from there. Journalist and humanitarian Coleman McCarthy ended a speech to a grassroots advocacy organization by saying, "I have one word for you—START!" By this he meant don't wait until you are an expert on an issue. Don't wait until you have the time, money, skills or whatever you think you need to make a difference. Just start doing something to serve.

We hope that you come to see your education as the start of a lifetime of learning and civic involvement throughout which you will effect changes to better the communities in which you live. We begin this text by looking within because our behaviors grow out of our beliefs and our beliefs shape the world. By becoming more self-aware, we can learn more effectively and efficiently, participate fully with others, and understand our motivations and desires. Not only are the topics of critical thinking, goal setting, resource management, and the process of change and overcoming barriers to change important for you now, in your role as a student, but the effective use of the principles presented in each of these topics will enable you to contribute effectively as a citizen.

Since working with others is an important component of effecting social change, we also cover working as a team, building relationships, and developing a support system. Although individuals can accomplish large-scale effects—and it is better to do something by yourself than not at all—it is best to find allies and build coalitions to augment your voice. We also address the concept of motivation. Although we are usually taught that motivation precedes action, in fact action also breeds motivation. When we build the skills and find the support to act, we become empowered and more motivated to continue that action. Without skills and support, however, summoning the motivation to act as citizens can be daunting. The ethics of engagement, including nonviolent communication, positive messaging, leadership, and negotiation skills, are presented here as well. We believe, and encourage you to consider, that how you act is equally as important as—if not more important than—what you accomplish.

The text culminates by presenting the structure of our American democracy and how to use it as the tool it was designed to be for effective self-governance. Developing relationships with members of Congress, understanding the election process, and learning how ideas become bills (which become public policy) help demystify the governmental process. We hope that this demystification will encourage you to participate in the process and use it in service to your dreams for the world. Much of the methodology presented here is based on successful field-testing by political advocacy groups. The text highlights real-world relevance by focusing on specific examples of how people of all abilities, interests, personalities, and degrees of participation have effected change.

Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a sermon about activism in 1956 called "The M4Durable Power." In it he said:

As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of along and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy tote future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.

King intuitively understood what the field of systems science is now offering proof for—that the end is inherent in, and inseparable from, the means to that end. If violence is used to create a result, then that result will in effect be violent. If negativity, judgment, or ill will exists in our thoughts, our seemingly good actions will still be party to creating that "endless reign of meaningless chaos." As we think and act with dignity, discipline, and compassion, we are already creating a world that operates with these principles.

On your journey of self-discovery and empowerment, our goal is to help give you the tools to be a mindful and proactive student and citizen. We believe, as 192 5 Nobel Prize winner George Bernard Shaw has said:

This is the true joy in life: being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world won't devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

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Table of Contents

(NOTE: Each chapter ends with an Applications section.)

1. Self-Awareness and Active Citizenship.

Determining Values. Translating Values and Motivation into Goals. Choosing Where and How to Engage as Citizens.

2. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving for Social Issues.

Critical Thinking. Problem Solving.

3. Resource Management for Active Citizenship.

Time Management. Financial Management. Personal Resource Management.

4. Action Strategies and Project Management.

Creating an Action Strategy. Staying on Track. Sample Action Plan. Project Management.

5. Skills for Civic Education.

Reading and Comprehension. Note-Taking. Researching. Writing.

6. Communications and Teamwork.

Basics of Communication. Effecting Change Through Communication. Effective Teams.

7. Leadership and Change.

Change Through Systems Thinking. Leadership Qualities. Characteristics of Change. Problem-Solving Styles. Creating the Environment for Change.

8. American Democracy and Government Structure.

Founding Documents. Separation of Powers. Voting and the Electoral Process. Members of Congress (MoC). How a Bill Becomes Law. Advocacy and Lobbying. Creating Sustainable Citizenship.

References.

Index.

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Preface

The purpose of this book is to help you enhance the quality of your life and the lives of others within your communities by sharing the skills necessary v to become an active citizen. We welcome you to this exciting journey and commend you for engaging in the process of discovering the unique way that you can help to create a better world! As Albert Schweitzer said, "I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve." We all have gifts to bring to this goal, and we hope that, through this text and course, you will come to believe, as we do, that it is entirely possible for you to radically enhance your self-concept and your ability to use the democratic process in pursuit of your vision for a better world.

This book is concerned with bringing about change, with helping you dream powerful dreams and make those dreams a reality for you, your community, your country, and your world. A common set of skills allows us to be effective in all the roles of our lives. The principles and practices presented in this text will enable you to bring the best that you have to offer to each of those roles. As you build the essential skills presented here, your effectiveness as a student and a learner will carry into your role as a citizen. A healthy democracy requires the participation of informed, thoughtful, and skilled citizens. By training ourselves to become more adept thinkers, writers, speakers, and leaders, we not only gather the tools to excel in many areas of our lives but also become more able to participate in our governance and give voice and direction to our priorities.

As you learn more about yourself and develop your capabilities, you may find great satisfaction in serving to uplift others and helping to solve societal problems. This is the great opportunity of democracy. However, we have reached a critical juncture in the evolution of our democratic system. The active participation of citizens is now necessary for our democracy to function and, indeed, to survive. In this book, we distinguish between traditional community service (or direct service) and political advocacy (or activism), which creates systemic change. Direct service, while meeting immediate and important needs, does not change the long-term effects of damaging government policies. Direct service might include, for instance, the necessary work of building houses for Habitat for Humanity. Engaging in advocacy might lead you to try to influence the U.S. Congress to approve affordable housing programs. Changing the policy that creates the social problems creates "systemic" change, or change to the system. In this text, we present skills for critical thinking and systems thinking, which help us understand the larger context within which societal problems exist and how we can create solutions.

How do you know where to engage in society when the problems in all areas can seem equally compelling and as a whole, overwhelming? Start with your heart! People will most likely be able to sustain action only on an issue that they are passionate about. Our emotions give us clues to where our heart is called. Clarifying our values and what we stand for helps us find issues that express these values. This evaluation is important, however, only if we act. Consider your talents, passions, and interests, and go from there. Journalist and humanitarian Coleman McCarthy ended a speech to a grassroots advocacy organization by saying, "I have one word for you—START!" By this he meant don't wait until you are an expert on an issue. Don't wait until you have the time, money, skills or whatever you think you need to make a difference. Just start doing something to serve.

We hope that you come to see your education as the start of a lifetime of learning and civic involvement throughout which you will effect changes to better the communities in which you live. We begin this text by looking within because our behaviors grow out of our beliefs and our beliefs shape the world. By becoming more self-aware, we can learn more effectively and efficiently, participate fully with others, and understand our motivations and desires. Not only are the topics of critical thinking, goal setting, resource management, and the process of change and overcoming barriers to change important for you now, in your role as a student, but the effective use of the principles presented in each of these topics will enable you to contribute effectively as a citizen.

Since working with others is an important component of effecting social change, we also cover working as a team, building relationships, and developing a support system. Although individuals can accomplish large-scale effects—and it is better to do something by yourself than not at all—it is best to find allies and build coalitions to augment your voice. We also address the concept of motivation. Although we are usually taught that motivation precedes action, in fact action also breeds motivation. When we build the skills and find the support to act, we become empowered and more motivated to continue that action. Without skills and support, however, summoning the motivation to act as citizens can be daunting. The ethics of engagement, including nonviolent communication, positive messaging, leadership, and negotiation skills, are presented here as well. We believe, and encourage you to consider, that how you act is equally as important as—if not more important than—what you accomplish.

The text culminates by presenting the structure of our American democracy and how to use it as the tool it was designed to be for effective self-governance. Developing relationships with members of Congress, understanding the election process, and learning how ideas become bills (which become public policy) help demystify the governmental process. We hope that this demystification will encourage you to participate in the process and use it in service to your dreams for the world. Much of the methodology presented here is based on successful field-testing by political advocacy groups. The text highlights real-world relevance by focusing on specific examples of how people of all abilities, interests, personalities, and degrees of participation have effected change.

Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a sermon about activism in 1956 called "The M4Durable Power." In it he said:

As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of along and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy tote future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.

King intuitively understood what the field of systems science is now offering proof for—that the end is inherent in, and inseparable from, the means to that end. If violence is used to create a result, then that result will in effect be violent. If negativity, judgment, or ill will exists in our thoughts, our seemingly good actions will still be party to creating that "endless reign of meaningless chaos." As we think and act with dignity, discipline, and compassion, we are already creating a world that operates with these principles.

On your journey of self-discovery and empowerment, our goal is to help give you the tools to be a mindful and proactive student and citizen. We believe, as 192 5 Nobel Prize winner George Bernard Shaw has said:

This is the true joy in life: being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world won't devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

Read More Show Less

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