Friday, November 10, 2006

Civics and Cynics

An interesting post from Peter Levine:
Maybe it isn’t reasonable to expect our young people to hold positive civic attitudes and be actively engaged. Citizens (both young and old alike) may rightly shun voting when most elections have already been determined by the way district lines were drawn. They may rightly ignore the news when the quality of journalism, especially on television, is poor. And they may rightly disengage from high schools that are large, anonymous, and alienating. Civic education that teaches people to admire a flawed system is mere propaganda.

Indeed. Casting my mind back to high school: the administration's attempts to instill "school spirit" (read: mindless obedience) just made me all the more cynical. It was only after I left school behind -- and started blogging -- that I developed any sense of civic identity. Empowerment beats indoctrination any day. Perhaps the principal would've had better luck with a "Yes, the system sucks; here's what you can do to change it" approach. But "stand up straight and sing the school song"? Barf.



  1. Although the nth koreans do seem to have quite a strong national identity and the Iraqi's or urban american black community (trying to think of a group encouraged to NOT respect their government) have rather less of it.

    Im always a little cynical when people claim pragmatism matches morality without a fair abmount of proof because it is just a little too convenient.

  2. Richard,

    Hopefully the expanding field of participatory media applications will bring more people around to the belief that civic engagement is a truly powerful tool - it all depends on the citizenry on just how powerful.

    Several of these applications were tested out during the latest election. I had the opportunity to work with Veek The Vote 2006 which allowed any American with a video enabled cell phone to record their veeks (video peeks) concerning their Election Day experiences. The project was an overwhelming success.

    Over 750 veeks from across the country and across socioeconomic borders to offer a rich exposition of Election Day.

    A couple of quotes about the project:

    "I appreciate the work that activists from across the country, like those on, have done to identify existing problems, and to help protect the rights that we all enjoy," states recently re-elected U.S. Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) about Veek the Vote 2006.

    “College kids and senior citizens alike joined together to use the cameras in their mobile phones to communicate their experiences and opinions on Election Day,” states Veeker Co-Founder Rodger Raderman. “People felt empowered by the ability to express themselves in this way to other Americans. Taken together, all of these videos present a richly textured view of Election Day in America.”


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