Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

9/11 and youth engagement

Robert Putnam and a colleague (they neither bowl nor write alone) write that from 9/11 "has come a renewed commitment to civic engagement among a crucial segment of the population: young people who were near college age on Sept. 11, 2001." The evidence to which they point is not unimpressive, though I’m extremely disappointed in the suggestions they make as to how to perpetuate this involvement, which reveals all too much about their own not very well hidden agenda.

For them, civic education is less about learning the principles of our government (the Declaration and the Constitution) than about action, and action is about getting the government to do more. This is a telling recommendation:

[To] beef up and revive civics education[,] make it less about memorizing the number of U.S. senators and more about experiential learning (petitioning government to build a local park or playground).

A genuinely Tocquevillian method of civic education would be for the young people to get together with community members and do something for themselves. To paraphrase the namesake of the Harvard program in which Putnam teaches, ask not what your government can do for you, but rather what you can do for your community.

If Putnam’s vision of civic education is simply intended to cultivate engaged clients of government programs, if its purpose is to make us more effective in demanding more stuff from the public purse, as if we’re only responsible for our neighbors and ourselves through the medium of a government program, then it is dead on arrival. At least I hope so.

Discussions - 3 Comments

I would take Putnam’s research with a grain of salt. Much of it is based on dubious survey questions, and I know from hearing him speak that he has an extremely naive view of human nature. This current trend of the young becoming "engaged" in political matters stems from the war just as it did in the 1960s and 70s. I don’t find that amazing, and it almost certainly won’t be sustained over time.

When civic associations once again become swollen with participants, when our military forces have to turn away volunteers, when volunteerism in general becomes ’normal’ -- that’s when we can talk about a turnaround in "civic engagement" and "social capital." Until then I think it’s just wishful thinking, in this case from wistful social scientists who would like to recreate some of the 1960s.

Let us not forget what happened tomorrow

A lesson to be taught over and over.

Right on jesse fan! Exactly - let’s NEVER FORGET!! I must say that I’m a little dissapointed with this blog in the area of 9/11 anniversary coveradge. One little post - that’s all? I also think that a Stars & Stripes icon, and perhaps a Bald Eagle too would be a good thing to have at the top of the blog’s home website page. No reason to hide the fact that this is a blog that comes from the heartland of America! I’m taking my nephew over to my local American Legion branch to talk to some American Heroes and get a flag that he can hang on his bedroom wall. Maybe that will help keep any liberals out of his room - haha! But really, NEVER FORGET. God Bless America, and let Him help us fight the Islamofacsists!

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