MILLER-McCUNE MAGAZINE … Vol 2, no. 6 … http://www.miller-mccune.com/magazine … Has an article titled … Building a Better Citizen … subtitle … How the government can make us better at self-government … beginning on page 53 … authored by David Villano … which I believe you will find worthy of your time to read and ponder its implications … I know my synopsis to follow does not do even reasonable justice to Mr. Villano’s most worthy craftsmanship. The article traces a decision by Hampton, Va., initially made in the early 80’s forward to the present. It is the fact Hampton chose a path which even today remains at the fringes of any normal bell curve. Hampton chose to re-invent itself following a path which honestly reaches out to “we” – the people – especially the young and genuinely involving them in governance of their community. As the authors notes … “the program was systematic, first fostering civic awareness through local service projects, hen building collaboration and leadership skill through involvement with city boards and commissions on issues of increasing complexity” … Fast forward nearly two decades and the program is still in operation and recognized as national model for fostering civic engagement.
Here’s the punch line … as the author discovered … “Hampton’s experiment in civic engineering is rarely repeated. Even rarer is the source of the inspiration … elected officials, who most often view public participation in decision-making as anathema” … But guess what, a growing body of evidence and the cultural shift accompanying the election of President Obama are prompting policy makers at all levels of government to consider programs and policies that strengthen eh skills and character traits that promote good citizen ship: pride in community, trust in individuals and institutions, the ability to work in groups, membership in service organizations and even social interaction among neighbors. OPINION … public participation in decision-making is viewed by most officials, elected and appointed as an anathema simply because “we” – that’s you and me – are mentally and even physically lazy choosing to individually to sanction whatever TV talking heads conjure up as politically-correct-truth-of-the-day. Here’s something for you to ponder. When “we” choose to stop idly giving sanction to these TV talking heads, guess what, we open for ourselves a new paradigm for consideration. Nothing happens until we sanction it. You might choose to investigate the nuances of the word … sanction … it’s a worthy undertaking.
Factor in that over the last 50 years a number of studies tend to support the notion Americans have become less knowledgeable of local and national affairs, less likely to engage in public discourse, less willing to join a group or civic organization, less likely to interact with neighbors and more likely to perceive fellow citizens as dishonest and immoral. OPINION … there appears from my discovery process rather compelling evidence to suggest there is appreciable validity to the notion that Americans are less knowledgeable of local and national affairs, less likely to engage in public discourse, less willing to join a group or civic organization, less likely to interact with neighbors and more likely to perceive fellow citizens as dishonest and immoral. Any why, you might inquire, well again how about the fact we have sanctioned for-profit-corporate-interest$ to educate our children.
One discovery in particular has many social scientists very concerned as it is revealed that … trust and connectedness … is lowest among 14 to 29 year olds … signaling for many of them a big red flag … as the very foundations of our democracy, in their judgment, are threatened if our youngest citizens do not maintain the fabric they determined has connected us the past 200 years. OPINION …might there be another lens through which we might look to evaluate the puzzling aspect of trust and connectedness in America’s youth…? Might it be that America’s youth are on the cusp of bringing about a paradigm change which quite frankly not only bewilders older Americans but strikes a bit of fear in them too…?
While many of us say we are in favor of change, I recall from my college days now more than 40 years ago the conclusions from a study performed quantify with the technology available at the time the amount of change “we” can actually endure. Interestingly this study indicated at best we can endure change of about 10%, which over the ensuing years I have come to feel is quite valid.
America’s youth and the youth of the world live in a dynamic of increasing acceleration, perhaps its part of their DNA, whereas “we” who are now becoming the retired “baby-boomers” dwelled in a far slower universe. Though some of our erudite experts find the trust and connectedness attitudes held by today’s youth troubling, I tend to see it as a small part of an ongoing evolutionary process.
If that is something you can not accommodate and you feel need to point our finger and blame, I invite us to blame the guy in the mirror. I am no longer sure I even know what the original fabric is that reputedly held our nation together over these last 200 plus years.
When I personally ponder the nuances associated with the word … TRUST … I find my own examples of trust I passed to my own children to be sorely lacking, as I feel were the examples passed to me by my parents and teachers. For me I note a clear line in the sand is extremely difficult to delineate and trust becomes a function of time, place, condition and circumstance. Trust has become something of a joke … “trust me, I’m from the government I’m here to help you” … or “you can trust me, I’m a doctor” … or “trust me I heard it on CNN, the most trusted name in news.” The fabric surrounding … trust … is relative leaving it to each of us to delineate for ourselves how we ascertain what is true.
I believe today’s American youth quickly discern what for them is true though like us they are most likely unable to articulate it. We, that’s us, baby-boomers need to accept we chose the path our children followed respecting education, which in the past 50 years has changed inexorably. We provided them with a very parochial perspective of history wherein the USA was always right and did not wrong, was not evil and was honorable in its dealings with others. We asked them to trust us informing them we would not send them into harm’s way unless absolutely necessary and then only for just cause. We repaid their trust by allowing George W. Bush to throw them grossly unprepared and under totally deceptive rationale into harm’s way, while “we” in silence did nothing to stop it. And now, we, have the gall to question their TRUST…?
I would say America’s youth has indeed learned well just how “we” define … TRUST … trouble is “we” don’t like what is being reflected back to us, do we…?
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