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Making Civics Real Workshop 6: Civic Engagement  
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Workshop 6

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Teacher Perspectives: Importance of curriculum

Bill Mittlefehldt: I’m sure if you watch any group of teenagers, it’s like there’s a culture change going on. Our kids are being raised by all kinds of electronic media. They spend maybe six hours a week watching TV and 40 minutes with parental supervision. They’re spending a lot of time with each other, and there is a separate youth culture. Part of this is healthy adolescent development, giving them the independence to develop their own adult personality, but a lot of our culture is gearing these kids to be passive consumers.

Our program is gearing them to be civically engaged, and we expect them to show us the creative courage that America needs to deal with some of these huge environmental, health, and economic issues. We challenge them. We say, “Hey, these are some of the issues challenging your community. Which one do you care about?” And then we stop—and that’s a critical juncture—because the curriculum doesn’t move forward until they start to show us what they care about. We didn’t tell them, “Hey, you do the train. You do the brownfield.” The kids selected these once they understood that the whole community needed their help.

I believe this is what Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and some of the founding fathers had in mind for creating a new type of citizen who could work together with people who are different because they shared a place, America, and they shared a vision of their destiny. We’re growing American teamwork because we train kids to care about their place. The most important part is we say, “We need your help. What do you care about?”


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