Strengthening Democracy in Central Arizona Through Education and Civic Engagement

Economic theorists have long argued that education can increase income and productivity, while political theorists believe that it can also improve democracy.

Civic participation

is the involvement of individuals or communities in local, state, and national government. This can include voting, political activism, volunteering, and community involvement. In short, it is the participation of people in governmental and democratic processes.

It is now time to launch a national initiative that will encourage greater interest, understanding, and involvement of citizens in local, state and national government, as well as in civic associations, processes, and purposes of civil society. When K-12 schools allow civics education to become civic action, students understand the importance of becoming effective citizens and active participants in their democracy. The Council of Europe has been the main defender of education for democracy and diversity in Europe. In addition to the acquisition of intellectual knowledge and skills, education for citizenship in a democratic society must focus on the skills that are required for informed, effective, and responsible participation in the political process and in civil society.

Especially in times of increasing social change and tension, it has become even more important to consider the role of higher education in creating a civic mindset among its students, as well as on the type of education and skills that should be most relevant to the development of higher education. Both the capacity approach and normative democratic theory are closely related when it comes to educating students to adopt a civic mindset and participate in democratic institutions. Civic education should be considered a central concern from kindergarten through twelfth grade, whether taught as part of other curricula or in separate units or courses. The effects of higher education are visible in many civic dimensions such as strengthening citizenship and civic mentality and participation in democratic institutions.

Formal instruction in civic and governmental education should pay no less attention to the responsibilities of citizens in a constitutional democracy. There is no doubt that civic education in a democratic society must focus on promoting an understanding of the ideals of democracy and a reasonable commitment to the values and principles of democracy. On the contrary, the progressive educational tradition advocates valuing knowledge of the past because of its relevance in solving the social problems of the present. From the Freedom Riders who protested against segregation policies in the early 1960s to the Vietnam War protestors in the late 1960s and early 1970s, to the anti-apartheid protestors in Los Angeles in the 1980s, young people's civic participation has shed light on vital political issues.

In a milder variant of progressive education, teachers are asked to help students develop a civic mindset and civic agency by introducing meaningful topics and activities that establish connections to the real world (Boyte 200). Therefore, greater investment in education increases profitability in the labor market but reduces incentives for civic activity. Despite overall youth volunteering rates having declined over the past 15 years, young people's interest in their community and student participation has increased.

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