navigating the disciplines

In a year of virtual orientations, I made a video to help inform Tufts undergraduates who may be thinking about what disciplines to explore as they choose courses and–later on–majors. I addressed “civically engaged” students: those who want to improve their communities, nations, and the world and are trying to decide what academic disciplines might help them to do that.

My presentation is not argumentative or judgmental in the sense that I advocate some disciplines over others. But I do impose an organizational scheme with classifications and generalizations that would probably be controversial. For example, I say what I think a “science” is and why the social sciences are scientific. I acknowledge that these definitions are personal and contentious, but they might make the video interesting for some people beyond Tufts.

Navigating the Pandemic: Inclusiveness, Addressing Bias, and Bridging Differences

This is the video from today’s session of a series for the Tufts Community (but open to the public.) The guests were Eboo Patel from Interfaith Youth Corps, Prof. Keith Maddox (Director of the Tufts University Social Cognition Lab, Prof. Sam Sommers (Director of the Tufts University Diversity and Intergroup Relations Lab) and Jessica Somogie with a meditation exercise. Deborah Donahue-Keegan and I moderated.

a civic silver lining?

Thanks to the Former Members of Congress Association, I joined Former Member Dennis Ross (R-FL) and mayors Nan Whaley (D-Dayton), Francis Suarez (R-Miami) and Marty Walsh (D-Boston), for a discussion of civic engagement during the pandemic.

I particularly appreciated Mayor Walsh’s eloquence about respecting poorly-paid work. His point expanded into a broader discussion of how to get everyone involved in the “public work” of rebuilding our community and country. On that topic, see “War Is a Poor Metaphor for This Pandemic” by Harry Boyte and Trygve Throntveit in Yes!.

I learned a lot from the mayors. I ended up thinking that the attitudinal effects of the pandemic may well be positive. We may care more about each other and feel more motivated to work together on public goals. The fact that the crisis is widely (although inequitably) shared will provide an opportunity to bring Americans together. However, the economic impact on civic life is very worrying.

To that last point, the Federal Reserve system recently surveyed a mix of local organizational leaders (two thirds of them from nonprofits) about the impact of the pandemic. “Nearly 2 out of 3 respondents (66%) indicated demand for their services has increased or is anticipated to increase, and more than half of the respondents (55%) noted a corresponding decrease or anticipated decrease in their ability to provide services.”

This chart from the Fed. paper is particularly significant:

See also: the Coronavirus information commons; a Green recovery;Educational Equity During a Pandemic“; trends to watch in civil society; why the relatively good US numbers for COVID-19 mortality?; effects on civil society will be mediated by the economy; and COVID-19 is not a metaphor.

political reform in Massachusetts

This is the video of me presenting our study entitled MassForward: Advancing Democratic Innovation and Electoral Reform in Massachusetts at the Boston Foundation in November, with discussion by Jay Kaufman, a former state representative and Founder and President of the Beacon Leadership Collaborative; Beth Lindstrom, former Executive Director of the Massachusetts Republican Party; Laurie Nsiah-Jefferson, Interim Director of the Center for Women in Politics & Public Policy at UMass Boston; and Pavel Payano, an at-large city councilor in Lawrence.

The report was covered in MassLive WGBH , WBUR CommonWealth NEPR WPRI SouthCoast Today, and The Salem News (an editorial) 

talking about gerrymandering and political reform on WCAI (Cape Cod and Islands)

I was on Mindy Todd’s show The Point yesterday, for a program on “Strengthening our Representative Democracy.” The other two guests were David Daley, author of Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy,” and Judy Zaunbrecher, co-president of the Massachusetts League of Women Voters. The audio is here. If you start at 42:00, you can hear Mindy ask Judy whether Massachusetts has been gerrymandered; Judy accurately summarizes the research by my colleagues at Tisch College. (Spoiler alert: not really, although it would still be better to use a nonpartisan districting commission.) I join shortly after that to discuss why our state government is so dominated by white men.

talking about student activism on Under the Radar with Callie Crossley

I was on WGBH’s “Under the Radar” today with host Callie Crossley and an excellent student activist named Victoria Massey, who is a senior at Charlestown High School and a member of the Hyde Square Task Force community organizing group. The segment is entitled “Is Student-Led Activism A Driving Force For Change In America?” It airs on Sunday but is officially available for listening and sharing now. Here it is.

And here’s how the conversation was framed:

Alexander Hamilton wrote his first political pamphlet as a student at King’s College, now known as Columbia University. He was 17 years old. On February 1, 1960, The lunch-counter sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina, were started by four college freshmen started the lunch-counter sit-ins in Greensboro, N.C. Three years later, the “Children’s Crusade” in Birmingham, Alabama, involved kids as young as 7 in peaceful protests against segregation. And this weekend, a group of high school students who got the nation to say “Never Again” will lead  thousands at the March For Our Lives.

Student-led activism has always been a part of American culture. Could it be one of the country’s driving force for change?

talking about teens and the 2018 election

While traveling to Orlando to talk about civic education, I’ll post two recent links.

First is today’s episode of “On Point” from NPR. The guests are three teenagers who are running for governor in Kansas (which imposes no age limit on candidates)–and me. I celebrate the young politicians but try to broaden the conversation to other forms of civic engagement that can involve a lot more kids.

And here is a piece by me on civic education in America and specifically in Connecticut “PERSPECTIVE: Republic Still at Risk; Connecticut Edges Forward.”

civic life and health research

This is an online lecture (video, slides, and discussion questions) entitled “Civic Life and Health Research.” It’s offered by, and thanks to, the Tufts Clinical Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI), where I hold a research professorship. Dr. Thomas Concannon introduces the CTSI and the session. I then offer four frameworks for understanding civic life:

  1. social capital
  2. collective efficacy
  3. common pool resources
  4. the public sphere

For each one, I explain why there are important empirical and conceptual connections with public health that have implications for both research and practice. Public health really serves as an example to illustrate how to apply these concepts, so the talk might be of some use in other fields as well, such as education or economic development.

(You can find and register for other free CTSI courses here.)

The “civic state of the union”

This is the video from the “Civic State of the Union” on March 7 at Tisch College. The participants are Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent for NPR and contributor to Fox News; Robert D. Putnam, political scientist, Professor of Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, and author of numerous works, including Bowling Alone; Shirley Sagawa, President and CEO of the Service Year Alliance and a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress; and me. We talked about the civic condition of the United States and what to do about it.