Your Voice Matters: Take a Survey about Civic Education

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Friends, on behalf of Lisa Matthews and our other wonderful colleagues at the National Conference on Citizenship, we would be incredibly grateful if you would take a few minutes to complete a survey about civic education in the United States. Below, Ms. Matthews describes the purpose of and instructions for the survey. It takes just a handful of minutes; please consider letting your voice and opinions be heard on this!
 
Would you be willing to take a survey that will help a new coalition expand and improve civic education in the USA? This coalition is led by iCivics, and many leaders in the field have already joined. NCoC is part of this coalition.
 
The online survey will take less than 15 minutes to complete. It will ask you a few questions about who you are, how you personally relate to civic education, and what you think about the state of civic education today.
 
The survey will also lead you through an exercise called the “Five Whys.” You’ll be asked whether you think that we provide good enough civic education in the USA today. If you don’t think so, you’ll be asked “What is one reason that civic education is not good enough today?” You’ll suggest a reason, and then you’ll be asked why you think that reason exists. Next, you’ll be asked for a reason for that reason. This activity will continue until you have had a chance to offer a chain of five reasons.
 
This brainstorming exercise will allow a broad range of people to suggest underlying causes of unsatisfactory civic education. (Or you may argue that civic education is fine as it is.) Some people who take this survey will also be invited to take a second survey later on. The second survey will help us to organize and prioritize the causes.
 
If you wish to take the survey, this is the link:  
 
It can be taken on a computer or a smartphone.
 
The survey begins with more information about the research and requests your consent to proceed. If you are under 18 years old, you must ask a parent or guardian also to give permission by typing his or her name in the form.
 
Thanks very much for considering offering your ideas through the survey.
 

polycentricity: the case for a (very) mixed economy

I haven’t really studied Quinn Slobodian’s history of neo-liberalism, Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism, nor Nancy MacLean’s Democracy In ChainsThe Deep History Of The Radical Right’s Stealth Plan For America. I am following the controversy about the latter, but don’t have anything useful to add to it. I would, however,  offer a perspective that may be a little unusual and that would influence how I’d assess any arguments in this domain.

I am deeply committed to polycentricity. I believe that a society ought to encompass a democratic national government, regional and local governments, an independent legal system with its own logic, a civil service and regulatory agencies, bureaucratic firms, markets, voluntary associations, religious denominations that vary from hierarchical to congregational, labor unions, parties and political movements, an institutionalized press, autonomous scholarly and scientific bodies and institutions, loose networks, and various kinds of families–each as centers of power. None should dominate. Each should check the others.

I believe in polycentricity because unitary political systems degenerate into tyranny regardless of their objectives. The Chinese Communist Party has evolved from a radically egalitarian movement into a club dominated by rapacious billionaires. How could that happen? Because, in the long run, it doesn’t matter what you believe or say you will do. It matters whether and how your power is checked.

I also believe in polycentricity because I accept the Hayekian argument that we are incapable of designing highly complex systems that are any good. We are better off with emergent social organization. However, I disagree with those Hayekians (not necessarily including Hayek himself) who claim that a market plus common law is the perfect manifestation of emergent social order. Markets are actually designed systems, and they tend to colonize the other domains if unchecked. A truly emergent society encompasses many different forms and allows people to choose among the forms and innovate within them. In other words, a society that has an assertive state and a strong market is more Hayekian than one with only a market (as if that were possible.)

Therefore, I am not surprised to observe people trying to build up strong democratic states that have powers to tax and regulate, nor am I surprised to see people working to create pro-market institutions that are insulated from democracy, such as international trade regimes. Both efforts should be expected in a pluralist political economy. I don’t assume that the builders of welfare states are trying to command the heights of the economy so that they can suppress individual freedoms (as some hard-core libertarians would argue), but I also don’t assume that the designers of pro-market rules are trying to subvert democracy. It’s all part of the expected give-and-take of polycentricity.

This is not to minimize the stakes. Whether or not countries a sign free-trade agreement has real implications–good, bad, or both–for jobs, for the environment, and for other institutions, from governments to unions. It even affects cultures and mentalities. These are matters of grave concern. But I don’t interpret them as signs of a doomsday struggle between “the market” and “democracy.”

How conflicts are resolved has different effects on different people. For example, a free trade agreement might benefit consumers and firms but cost some people jobs, which, in turn, can damage and even shorten their lives. Therefore, it is appropriate to assess any arrangement from the perspective of distributive justice. However, if you think that you can design one sovereign institution–such as a government–that will consistently, wisely, and fairly define and enforce principles of distributive justice, then I want to see how this entity will be structured and who will be in charge of it–not only today, but once their grandchildren inherit their privileges. Even more important, I want to know how you will move our world from not having such an institution to having it, in the face of resistance.

My bias is that people must assess and enforce distributive justice, and we should do so through the various institutions available to us: a whole range of governments, movements, courts, media forums, etc. This is a citizen-centered rather than a state- or market-centered model. It doesn’t negate the significance of struggles between states and markets, yet it doesn’t assume that the relationship must be zero-sum. We could have stronger democratic states and more efficient markets (consider Denmark). I’d also emphasize that states and markets are only two of a dozen or more important types of institution through which people exercise authority.

See also: should all institutions be democratic?against state-centric political theorythe right to strikeChina teaches the value of political pluralism; and why the deliberative democracy framework doesn’t quite work for me. And see Paul Dragos Aligica’s Institutional Diversity and Political Economy (Oxford, 2014) for a generally congruent view.

Tuning in and Shifting Strategy with Ben Franklin Circles

As part of our partnership with NCDD member org, Ben Franklin Circles, we have been sharing stories from those participating in the circles and some of the key learning that has taken place during the process. Read the remarkable change that happened in Victoria Fann’s BF Circle when she decided to step back from facilitating and have the circle members take the rein. You can read the post below and find the original post on BFC’s site here.


The Spirit of Community

My Ben Franklin Circle in Weaverville, NC has been meeting since November 2017. Since I have been facilitating groups of various kinds since 1989, stepping into the role of facilitator for this group was easy for me. We met for the first four months with me asking most of the questions, reading the quotes and gently steering the conversation if we strayed away from the topic.

This seemed to work well, but something was missing. I had a gnawing feeling that there was a better way to structure our little group. Based on some words from his autobiography, I knew that Ben Franklin would heartily agree. For example, he writes, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Involvement was precisely what we needed!

The first small step in this direction took place at our February meeting. Instead of discussing the virtues in the order listed on the Ben Franklin Circle website, I decided to write each one of the remaining virtues on small slips of paper and fold them up. I brought those papers to the meeting and placed them in a hat. At the end or our discussion, I asked a member to draw out one of the slips of paper, saying that we would discuss whatever virtue was chosen.

This felt good—so good, in fact, that at the March meeting, I decided to take this idea a step further. Prior to the meeting, I wrote out that month’s virtue questions and quotes provided by the Ben Franklin Circle website onto small slips of paper, folded them and placed them into a bowl at our host’s house. I then invited members to draw one out and read it aloud to the group to prompt our discussion. I also encouraged members to add their own questions.

Franklin’s very own group, on which the BF Circles are based, encouraged a similar involvement from the members of the group as he writes here: “I should have mentioned before, that, in the autumn of the preceding year, I had form’d most of my ingenious acquaintance into a club of mutual improvement, which we called the JUNTO; we met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss’d by the company; and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased. Our debates were to be under the direction of a president, and to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute, or desire of victory; and, to prevent warmth, all expressions of positiveness in opinions, or direct contradiction, were after some time made contraband, and prohibited under small pecuniary penalties.”

What we discovered during that meeting was that having the members chose the questions at random and read them to the group led to a much deeper level of conversation. I suspect this was because the playing field had been leveled and everyone felt more engaged and involved than when I was the one asking most of the questions. My leadership role softened as I yielded to this more community-based approach. Our trust of each other and our willingness to explore the outer edges of the virtue increased exponentially. Plus, there was almost a palpable feeling of relief among all of us once we shifted into this more egalitarian way of relating to each other. It was clear we’d been seeking it all along.

The lesson for me was a reminder of how important it is to tune into the specific needs of a situation without assumptions, agendas or formulas, but rather an open mind and a willingness to learn.

Though initially my “expertise” proved to be a hindrance, the group process itself became the catalyst that allowed the solution to emerge effortlessly.

Thank you, Ben Franklin.

Victoria Fann is a writer, transformational coach, group facilitator and workshop leader. Her Ben Franklin Circle meets in Weaverville, NC.

You can find the original version of this post on Ben Franklin Circles’ site at https://benfranklincircles.org/ben-franklin-circle-hosts/the-spirit-of-community.

University of the Western Cape: Student Learning through Community Participation

Author: 
Post-graduate students enrolled in research methodology modules often have little engagement with real-world research. They learn the theory of research but are not exposed to field work experiences, including issues of ethical research. This case documents a participatory learning process in which post-graduate students visited two communities in Cape Town,...

Participedia.net Hosts Democratic Learning Webinar Series

NCDD is excited to share one of our partner organizations, Participedia.net has recently announced their first ever webinar series on Democratic Teaching and Learning starting in June. This free four-part series is open to anyone and will be a great opportunity to connect with Participedia researchers and collaborators around participatory democracy. We are proud to see many folks from the NCDD network collaborating on the sessions and we encourage you to register at the link below! Read the webinar schedule in the post and find the original on Participedia.net’s site here.


Democratic Teaching and Learning: A Webinar Series

Participedia proudly presents its first webinar series on Democratic Teaching and Learning, developed by Co-Chairs of our Teaching, Training and Mentoring Committee, Drs. Joanna Ashworth & Bettina von Lieres! Open to anyone interested in the field, this four-part webinar series will connect Participedia researchers and collaborators with shared interests in teaching methods, theories, and cases that support democratic participation. Join us and our rotating panel of experts for a lively exchange of knowledge about challenges and successes in the evolving field of participatory democratic innovations.

Schedule:

Session One – 8 am Pacific Time June 6, 2018
Participedia.net Teaching and Learning from Cases

Graham Smith (Westminster University) and Tina Nabatchi, (Syracuse University)
Moderator: Bettina von Lieres (University of Toronto).

  • What and How Do We Teach Using Participedia.net? Questions, Cases, and Opportunities?

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR SESSION 1

Session Two – 8 am Pacific Time September 26, 2018
Understanding the Practice of Democratic Pedagogy

Tim Shaffer  (Kansas State University), Bettina von Lieres (University of Toronto).
Moderator: Joanna Ashworth (Simon Fraser University)

  • What is Democratic Pedagogy? Schools of Thought and Practice in Canada, US, UK and Beyond

Session Three – 8 am Pacific Time October 31, 2018
TITLE TBC What Works: Coaching and Mentoring Professionals in the Uses and Research of Public Participation.

Matt Leighninger (Public Agenda) and Julien Landry (Coady International Institute).
Moderator: Joanna Ashworth

  • Insights into working with seasoned and mid-career professionals from the public sector, NGOs and more.

Session Four – 8 am Pacific Time November 28, 2018
The Global Context of Participation

Lawrence Piper, (University of the Western Cape), John Gaventa (Institute of Development Studies) and Archon Fung (Harvard Kennedy School; Co-Founder Participedia).
Moderator: Bettina Von Lieres (University of Toronto).

  • How context shapes the teaching of democratic pedagogies: Reflections on Politics, conflict and power in South Africa, the Philippines and Beyond

Save the Date:
RSVP on Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.ca/o/participedianet-17316087019
RSVP on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Participedia/events/

You can find the original version of this announcement on Participedia.net’s site at www.participedia.net/en/news/2018/05/21/democratic-teaching-and-learning-webinar-series.

outline of a session on civic agency

This morning, I enjoyed working with an impressive group of Rwandan professionals (academics, clinicians and others). The outline of the session could work for other groups and is “open source”–available for anyone to borrow.

I open with my formula that a good citizen is someone who seriously asks “What should we do?” I have probably overdone this refrain–it’s in video form here and here–but I see value in it. Imposing the discipline of this question blocks the cheap path of discussing what should be done (by someone else). It forces us to notice which groups we belong to and how they work. And it emphasizes the value dimension (“should”), which is often evaded in a culture dominated by science and technical expertise.

So I ask people to talk about a range of issues that matter to them and try to impose the discipline of discussing only what we should do about each one.

I then argue that in order to ask, “What should we do?” we must belong to one or more functional groups that offer agency to their members. (I don’t see a clear maximum size to such groups, but responsiveness certainly becomes problematic at large scales.)

I usually ask about the groups that people belong to or have joined in the past that enable their members to ask the citizen’s fundamental question.

Groups address an enormous range of issues, from putting on an entertaining show to challenging the patriarchy. Any group will also face three categories of internal problems–challenges to its own survival and functioning that arise more or less regardless of the issues it addresses. I present these categories one at a time, and we talk about examples (and solutions) that have arisen in people’s experience. The categories are:

  1. Problems of collective action: how to get people to contribute attention, energy, and resources to the group rather than free-ride or drain value from it. Note that these problems arise even in groups that pay their employees and require and assess their performance. Even then, degrees of contribution still depend on the norms of the group. A relevant concept here is “social capital,” which I would define as the rules and practices that allow groups of people to function well together.
  2. Problems of discourse: how to make wise decisions about the “should” part of “What should we do?” in the face of disagreement and moral uncertainty. People disagree about values. In fact, premature consensus is a threat to wisdom. But how can we disagree in ways that prevent manipulation, misinformation, balkanization, faction, etc.? (Rwandans are a little unwilling to talk about deep disagreements, for reasons I understand, and I didn’t push the matter.)
  3. Problems of the we versus the them. Any group needs boundaries, or it cannot function, but how should it relate to those who don’t belong? What if a dominant group doesn’t want your kind to join it? Groups commonly face ethical questions about how to treat outsiders as well as strategic questions about how to force their way in when they are excluded from where they want to be.

See also: what should we do?what if something is not your problem?; and Ostrom, Habermas, and Gandhi are all we need.

Join NCDD at Frontiers of Democracy Conference 2018

We are thrilled to announce the upcoming 2018 Frontiers of Democracy conference is happening at Tufts University from Thursday, June 21st until Saturday, June 23rd! The annual Frontiers of Democracy brings together leaders working on deliberative democracy, civic engagement and civic education, to explore how to further advance democracy. NCDD’s Managing Director Courtney Breese will be presenting a session on Friday, June 22rd during on the 2nd session block from 2:30pm-4pm on “Partnering to Strengthen Participatory Democracy: How Might We Connect and Collaborate?”. We encourage you to read the announcement below and find the original on the Tisch College website here.


Frontiers of Democracy Conference

Frontiers of Democracy is an annual conference hosted by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University since 2009. The 2018 conference will take place from June 21 (5:00 p.m.) until June 23 (1:00 p.m.) at Tufts University’s downtown Boston campus in Chinatown.

Partners for the conference in 2018 include the Bridge Alliance, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, the National Conference on Citizenship, and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

You can now register and pay to hold a spot. Please note that speakers and session organizers must purchase tickets.

Frontiers of Democracy immediately follows the Summer Institute of Civic Studies, a selective 2-week seminar for scholars, practitioners, and advanced graduate students.

Frontiers 2018 Theme

According to Freedom House, democracy has been in retreat worldwide for 12 years. Many people are pushing back, including activists and organizers who are nonviolently struggling, using tactics like strikes, boycotts, and mass demonstrations against entrenched power. Other individuals and groups take different approaches, some seeking a greater degree of neutrality and emphasizing deliberative dialogue, particularly when they work within institutions such as schools, public agencies, and newspapers. This year, Frontiers will bring people from these communities of scholarship and practice together to ask how they can learn from and complement each another.

You can read the full agenda for the 2018 conference by clicking here.

Looking Back: Frontiers 2017

Thanks to everyone who joined us at an exciting, thought-provoking, and timely Frontiers of Democracy 2017. You can watch the video of this year’s introduction, “short take” speakers, and one of our afternoon plenaries, below. (You can click on each video’s title to watch on YouTube and, in the description, find timestamps that allow you to skip to a specific speaker’s presentation.)

Frontiers 2017 was focused on multiple frameworks for civic and democratic work developed respectively by Caesar McDowell of the Interaction Institute for Social Change and MIT, Archon Fung of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and Tisch College’s Peter Levine. Our short take speakers included Rev. Dr. F. Willis Johnson, the senior minister of Wellspring Church in Ferguson, Missouri; Wendy Willis of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium and the National Policy Consensus Center; and Hardy Merriman, President of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

In addition, the Journal of Public Deliberation, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, and The Democracy Imperative held a pre-conference symposium on “Deliberative Democracy in an Era of Rising Authoritarianism.”

Check out the preconference symposium’s agenda and readings and the full Frontiers 2017 schedule.

You can find the original version of this announcement on Tisch College’s site at https://tischcollege.tufts.edu/research/civic-studies/frontiers-democracy-conference.

notes on cultural appropriation after the royal wedding

In the current debate about “cultural appropriation,” I would offer these premises: everything is mixed, mixing is good, having your culture borrowed can give you more power, and demands for authenticity are problematic. Although I recognize exceptions and complications, we should start by welcoming “appropriation.”

I have not seen anyone complain that the recent royal wedding was an example of appropriation, and I’m interested in why not. After all, very rich white people incorporated African American culture into their ceremony, literally bringing it into their castle. It seems evident that Black American Christianity arrived in strength and confidence and made the whole ensemble much better than it would otherwise have been. That shows that you can’t judge an act of borrowing without looking closely; and often you will find it admirable.

The wedding was a mashup of English or British traditions with African American culture, the latter in the form of Bishop Michael Curry’s magnificent  sermon and the music (“Stand By Me” and “This Little Light of Mine”). But, like everything human beings do, it’s much more mixed than that. When Rev. Curry read, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, / as a seal upon your arm,” he was sharing his patrimony, a great text of his tradition. He chose the New Revised Standard translation, which subtly echoes the King James Version (particularly prized by African American preachers), which was commissioned by Prince Harry’s eponymous ancestor, James I of England. That Bible was basically an appropriation of the translation by the heretic/martyr William Tyndale, who knew Greek and Hebrew but seems to have read the Song of Songs in the Latin translation by St. Jerome (an Illyrian), who had translated the Greek Septuagint version (made in Egypt), which–in turn–translated the Hebrew original songs, which have parallels with Mesopotamian and Egyptian love poetry of the same era. The songs are attributed to Solomon, who loved the daughter of Pharaoh and “women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites” (1 Kings 11). Solomon sang for all these nations. 

In other words, it’s all borrowing, as far as the eye can see. And not just on Rev. Curry’s side. Prince Harry is a British royal. If you trace his paternal line back a millennium, you reach Elimar I (1040-1112), the Count of Oldenburg in Saxony, from whom also descend the royal families of Russia, Greece, and Denmark, among others. Windsor Chapel was founded by a King of England of Viking descent whose motto was the Middle French phrase Honi soit qui mal y pense

I can’t resist noting that if you discuss “appropriation,” you are using a word derived from the Latin appropriare, which is first attested in the medical work of Caelius Aurelianus, who was an African man, a subject of Rome, best known from translating from Greek.

But doesn’t borrowing a cultural product mean taking it from the people who rightly hold it? Isn’t it therefore an act of power that benefits the taker?

Not necessarily, because culture isn’t zero-sum. Everyone can draw from the cultural commons. Jefferson said, “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lites his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”

Power is relevant, and it’s not OK to steal other people’s patrimony, like Napoleon carting off 695 Roman sculptures to fill the Louvre. But culture has power of its own, even when it’s set against guns and money.

Again, consider the juxtaposition of English aristocrats and African Americans at the recent wedding. There is no doubt that Black Americans face structural as well as intentional racism, in a pattern that extends across the Atlantic; Britain is implicated in it. White English people who are invited to a royal wedding are far more privileged than Americans of African descent.

But not more culturally powerful. Surely in our world of 7.6 billion, the 40 million Black Americans have some of the most “soft power.” Influence is currently flowing from Black America to places like Windsor Castle in a mighty stream.

One of the reasons is sheer excellence. I don’t think you can properly assess cultural transfer unless you are attuned to quality. Perhaps we should appreciate all the cultural traditions of the world for what they are, but there are great peaks as well as modest hills. The African American church is one of the mightiest ranges. It contributes theology, rhetoric, music, a political repertoire, and a distinctive moral vision to the whole world. Of course, it is made from a mixture of elements: so is everything human. But this mixture is particularly powerful. In the exquisite setting of a late-Gothic royal chapel, representatives of the traditions of the Black church added their unique voices and made the whole greater than the sum of its parts. There are excellent reasons not to call such moments “appropriation.”

See also: what is cultural appropriation?when is cultural appropriation good or bad?cultural mixing and powerMaoist chic as Orientalismeveryone unique, all connectedJesus was a person of color.

NCDD2018 Sesh Proposals Due Weds and More Updates

Several reminders about our upcoming 2018 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation happening November 2-4 in downtown Denver!

The most immediate reminder is that session proposals are due tomorrow Wednesday, May 23rd. Are you looking to do a workshop at NCDD2018? Now is the time to get your proposals in! Check out our post on tips for finding collaborators and guidelines for presenting sessions at the conference. We invite session proposals that will highlight the work being done to tap D&D into the peoples’ daily lives, build democratic participation, and better expose D&D work. Our conference team is excited to see what sessions you want to bring!

We want to give you a friendly reminder that the “Super Early Bird” registration rate is available until Thursday, May 31st! On Friday, June 1st, the registration will go up to the”Early Bird” rate of $385, which will be active until July 15th (where it will then go up to the regular rate of $450). Take advantage of this ultra-low rate now to join over 400 leaders, practitioners, and enthusiasts, on Connecting and Strengthening Civic Innovators, our theme for NCDD2018Our goal of the conference is to explore how to bring dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement work’s many tools and processes into greater visibility and practice within our society. Learn more about the conference at www.ncdd.org/ncdd2018 and register to secure your tickets ASAP!

In case you missed our announcement, we are now accepting NCDD2018 sponsors! Looking to heighten the profile of your organization and work in the field? Being a sponsor is a great way to do it! NCDD conferences regularly bring together many of the most active, thoughtful, and influential people in public engagement and group process work across the U.S. and Canada (plus practitioners from around the world), and being a sponsor can help your organization can reach them all.

Being an All-Sponsor ($10,000+), Collaborator ($5,000+), Co-Sponsor ($3,000),  Partner ($2,000), or Supporter ($1,000) will earn you name recognition with potential clients, provide months of PR, and build respect and goodwill for your organization every time we proudly acknowledge your support as we promote the conference. Plus you’ll be providing the crucial support that NCDD relies on to make our national conferences so spectacular, including making it possible for us to offer more scholarships to the amazing young people and other deserving folks in our field. You can learn more about the details in our sponsorship document.

Finally, we have our FAQs page up on the NCDD2018 conference page, as well as, information on travel and lodging – where you can learn more about the room block price and fun things (besides the conference) to do while you’re in Denver! FYI we will also be posting on the blog later this summer to help folks coordinate if they want to share a room with someone.

Want to get an idea of what past NCDD conferences have been like? Check out these short videos of our 2016 and 2014 conferences!

Democratic Teaching and Learning: A Webinar Series

Participedia proudly presents its first webinar series on Democratic Teaching and Learning, developed by Co-Chairs of our Teaching, Training and Mentoring Committee, Drs. Joanna Ashworth & Bettina von Lieres! Open to anyone interested in the field, this four-part webinar series will connect Participedia researchers and collaborators with shared interests in teaching methods, theories and cases that support democratic participation.