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A Push for Civic Education

June 9, 2016
The Annenberg Foundation recently found that only a third of all adult respondents to a national survey could name all three branches of the federal government.
Of the college graduates surveyed, 10 percent thought Judge Judy is a member of the United States Supreme Court. Research studies and media editorials bemoan the decreasing lack of even fundamental civic awareness of our citizenry and how this weakens our democratic institutions.  
This trend is particularly unfortunate for our communities because an increasing body of research also shows that citizen interconnectness and community cohesion is the single biggest contributor to resiliency of our communities from natural and man-made disasters. Civic connectedness and a feeling of “belonging” brought about through civic engagement can lessen the likelihood of civil unrest that city officials may occasionally have to deal. As our people’s mistrust of government, income inequities and social alienation from our communities and institutions grows this situation require a civic renewal in our country. Such civic renewal can only be achieved by a focus on civic education that must reach beyond the brief few hours of academic time now allotted to studying government in California classrooms. New generations of Americans will have to be taught in new ways the civic lessons necessary for productive citizenship.
A Push for Civic Education,” in the June issue of the International City/County Management Association’s PM magazine, provides a pragmatic prescription for improving the civic health of our communities through restoring our focus on civic education. Practices that increase civic awareness are plentiful and diverse in American communities and should be an area of increasing significance to managers and elected officials alike. Advocating the use of both a number of traditional and newer digital civic education solutions available to local government leaders the authors believe we can reverse this trend of growing civic illiteracy. These practices range from traditional student in government days to modern digital games simulating election campaigns to platforms that increase the access to civic information and public officials. Providing an overview of digital civic platforms available and examples of where practices are employed in California and around the country the article is appropriate for distribution to elected officials, civic groups and organizations to create a coalition of civic, educational and governmental partners. 
California cities and counties are entering a new era of technology assisted civic engagement and education. However our success will depend on the historic role for managers and elected officials to exercise their influence and personally get involved to mend the civic fabric of our communities. With the exception of classroom teachers few professionals are bettered positioned to facilitate civic education than those of us in local government leadership.

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