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Engaging Young People in Civic Life

Edited by James Youniss and Peter Levine

Publication Year: 2009

The myth of generations of disengaged youth has been shattered by increases in youth turnout in the 2004, 2006, and 2008 primaries. Young Americans are responsive to effective outreach efforts, and this collection addresses how to best provide opportunities for enhancing civic learning and forming lasting civic identities. The thirteen original essays are based on research in schools and in settings beyond the schoolyard where civic life is experienced. One focus is on programs for those schools in poor communities that tend to overlook civic education. Another chapter reports on how two city governments--Hampton, Virginia, and San Francisco—have invited youth to participate on boards and in agencies. A cluster of chapters focuses on the civic education programs in Canada and Western Europe, where, as in the United States, immigration and income inequality raise challenges to civic life.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press

Table of Contents

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pp. v-vii

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pp. ix-xi

I can think of no task more important for the future of American democracy than teaching young people about our system of government and encouraging them to get involved in politics and community service. This has been a passion of mine for a long time—during the 34 years I served in Congress, and continuing since I retired from the House in 1999 and established the Center ...

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pp. xiii

This volume was developed in a series of meetings held at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. These meetings were supported by Carnegie Corporation of New York through its U.S. Democracy Program under the guidance of Cynthia Gibson, who was then a Carnegie program officer. At these meetings, researchers and policy makers met to assess the literature and to ...

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Introduction: Policy for Youth Civic Engagement

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pp. 1-10

This book went to press soon after young Americans voted at extraordinarily high rates in the presidential primaries of 2008. The turnout rate of citizens under the age of 30 almost doubled that of 2000, the most recent year when there were competitive primaries in both parties (Kirby et al., 2000). As we write, young people are visibly excited, idealistic, and hopeful, as their high ...

Part I. Youth and Schools

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pp. 11-12

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1. A "Younger Americans Act": An Old Idea for a New Era

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pp. 13-28

In 2001, a bill called the Younger Americans Act was introduced in Congress. It was modeled after the Older Americans Act, passed 20 years earlier, and was designed, like its predecessor, to take focus off of youth's problems and to allocate resources for building on their available capacities. Following the passage of the Older Americans Act, the income and health of the nation's elderly improved ...

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2. Democracy for Some: The Civic Opportunity Gap in High School

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pp. 29-58

If Congress passed a law saying that those who earned less than $35,000 a year no longer had the right to vote or influence who gets elected to the U.S. Senate, most of us would be outraged. With such a law, some would ask, "Can we still call ourselves a democracy?" Unfortunately, according to recent research by Larry Bartels of Princeton University, such a law might not make a big ...

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3. Principles That Promote Discussion of Controversial Political Issues in the Curriculum

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pp. 59-78

In the "Bong hits for Jesus" case (Morse v. Frederick, 2007), the U.S. Supreme Court justices wrestled with the question of whether their traditional, albeit muted, support for the free speech rights of students in public schools should be curtailed if the "speech" uttered by a student could be interpreted as promoting the use of illegal drugs. The Court's split decision in the case illustrates ...

Part II. Politic al Environments: Neighborhoods and Cities

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pp. 79-80

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4. Policies for Civic Engagement beyond the Schoolyard

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pp. 81-101

The 2004 presidential election taught us some valuable lessons about what could be accomplished by institutions outside schools when it came to political learning and engagement. Up until the fall of 2004, it had appeared that politicians, political parties, and the interest groups aligned with both had largely failed to stir up the political interest of Generation Y. For more than 30 ...

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5. Civic Participation and Development among Urban Adolescents

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pp. 102-120

Poor urban neighborhoods are often viewed as bad contexts for child and adolescent growth. Policy makers and researchers are deeply concerned with the high rates of crime in such neighborhoods (e.g., Sampson, Raudenbush, and Earls, 1997). Criminal activity endangers the youth who live in such neighborhoods and, through processes as yet not fully understood, facilitates their own ...

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6. City Government as Enabler of Youth Civic Engagement: Policy Designs and Implications

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pp. 121-163

In this essay, we examine the role that city governments can play in promoting youth civic engagement in a systematic and strategic fashion, especially through such innovations as youth commissions as well as related efforts to make youth empowerment part of the culture of city agencies and nonprofits that contract with the city. We analyze in detail two cities that have demonstrated notable ...

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7. Local Political Parties and Young Voters: Context, Resources, and Policy Innovation

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pp. 164-186

During two very cold days in January 2007, youth mobilization activists and academics from across the nation convened at the Johnson Foundation Wingspread Conference Center at Racine, Wisconsin. The goal of the gathering was to discuss mobilization efforts in the previous midterm election. Funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and organized by Young Voter Strategies and the ...

Part III. Policy Models from Other Nations

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pp. 202-203

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8. Youth Electoral Participation in Canada and Scandinavia

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pp. 187-218

The chapters in this book discuss how best to prepare our youth for active citizenship, as well as ways to help, or facilitate, young people to keep abreast of current affairs, make their views known publicly, vote regularly, form interest groups, participate in political campaigns, and lobby elected officials. While other chapters assess American experience using American research data, this ...

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9. Civic Education in Europe: Comparative Policy Perspectives from the Netherlands, Belgium, and France

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pp. 219-234

In recent years, various policy initiatives have been implemented to strengthen the importance of civic education in European countries. The Council of Europe even proclaimed 2005 to be the "European Year of Citizenship through Education," in an effort to harmonize the efforts of its member states. The Council also claimed that European liberal democracies share a specific ...

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10. Strengthening Education for Citizenship and Democracy in England: A Progress Report

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pp. 235-272

The past two decades have witnessed a fundamental review of the concept of citizenship and what it involves in communities in the United Kingdom, in Europe, and globally.1 This review has encompassed countries and communities at local, national, and regional levels, as well as supranational organizations such as UNESCO, the European Commission, and the Council of Europe. A ...

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Conclusion: Conclusion: The Way Forward

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pp. 273-278

Although the chapters collected in this volume range widely across institutions, policies, and practices, they share several important principles. First, they understand "civic engagement" broadly. The activities and attitudes that the chapters treat as desirable include voting, volunteering, trusting other people, tolerating other people and their views, discussing issues, attending meetings, ...


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pp. 279-282


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pp. 283-285

E-ISBN-13: 9780826516527
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826516503
Print-ISBN-10: 0826516505

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2009