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Showing posts from December, 2016

Engaging Students in Post-Election Public Policy, Part VI: Finding Resources to Support Implementation or Learning from Defeat

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by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
Our post-election public policy process journey concludes today with a piece on finding resources to support implementation or learning from defeat.

This series began by making the case for engaging students in the public policy process. Then, students are asked to define the problem they are seeking to address and explore possible policy alternatives that address both symptoms and root causes. Next, who in government can help solve the identified problem? These decision-makers must be persuaded and work within institutions with established calendars, a civics lesson in its own right. The media must be engaged throughout and viewed as a potential ally in student advocacy efforts.

Assuming success, it’s important to note that public policy wins are equivalent to battles, not the entire war. More than anything, they represent opportunities to get it right, as implementation is everything.

We live in a world of limited resources, and gove…

Engaging Students in Post-Election Public Policy, Part V: Engaging the Media

by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
As we engage students in the public policy process, media outreach is a vital ingredient for victory, and the lessons learned are transferrable to lifelong participation in our democracy. It goes without saying that we must begin by building students’ appetite for news of all varieties, especially state and local coverage. Weaving current and controversial discussions of these issues into class is a proven practice and part of the new civics course requirement.

But students themselves can contribute to media themselves. Many are savvy consumers of social media. True, much of their activity is likely friendship-driven and perhaps tilted towards celebrity gossip. Yet social media is also a venue for interest-drive activities, some with an overtly political focus like #BlackLivesMatter. Depending on the issue students select, they may contribute to an already active social media movement, or better yet, create one of their own.

In our push f…

Engaging Students in Post-Election Public Policy, Part IV: Persuading Decision Makers and Using Calendars to Achieve Goals

by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
In this fourth installment of suggested steps to engage students in the public policy process we’ll focus on persuading decision makers and using calendars to achieve their goals.

Graham and Hand’s America: The Owner’s Manual suggests that these steps be preceded by gauging and building public support for the identified cause, and we spoke at length in our second post of this series on how polling data can be used for these purposes. The authors also emphasize coalition-building, an admittedly lengthy process.

While it’s possible that students can build coalitions on their own, they may also want to research existing consortia already in place. In Illinois, we’ve been lucky to have the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition (ICMC) since 2004. A core initiative of this entity from the beginning is Illinois Democracy Schools, a statewide network of high schools deeply committed to students’ civic development.

ICMC members and Democracy Schools i…

Engaging Students in Post-Election Public Policy, Part III: Identifying Who in Government Can Solve the Problem

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by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
Last week, we tackled the first two phases of engaging students in the public policy process using America: The Owner’s Manual by Graham and Hand. We’ll continue today with the step that follows: Identifying who in government can solve the problem.

Recall that we previously asked students to identify an issue and research its symptoms and root causes. We later explored various policy alternatives, and now must identify who in government can help resolve the identified problem.

For students, this is often a lesson in federalism. While we tend to focus obsessively on national government, the reality is that most laws that impact us daily exist on the state and local level. It’s therefore likely that many issues students identify reside here.

If the potential policy solution is statutory in nature, attention turns naturally to the legislative body, be it the state legislature or city council. This is often a good opportunity to familiarize …

Engaging Students in Post-Election Public Policy, Part II: Defining the Problem and Gathering Information

by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
On Monday, we previewed a series of posts centered on engaging students in post-election public policy advocacy. Using America: The Owner’s Manual by Graham and Hand, we’ll begin today with their first two steps in the advocacy process, defining the problem, and later, gathering information to persuade policy makers.

Illinois’ emerging social studies standards ask students to develop questions to guide their inquiries. In an undergraduate public policy class I teach, I start class with an ice breaker, asking students to identify one law they would like to change. This response becomes the problem or issue they explore throughout the semester, identifying the status quo, the causes and symptoms of the problem, and the range of views on the issue across the political spectrum.

For example, while advocating for the new civics course requirement in Illinois, we drew upon civic health data demonstrating that Illinois millennials were 47th in t…

Poetry to Prose: Engaging Students in Post-Election Public Policy

by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
In the aftermath of the 2016 Election, we’ve promised a pivot to the public policy processes and outcomes that follow. This post represents the frame through which we’ll pursue this work as we attempt to leverage the excitement and/ or fears of our students and translate it into the difficult work of democratic governance.

Illinois’ new civics course requirement embeds proven civic learning practices that align perfectly with teaching the public policy process, namely direct instruction on government institutions, discussions of current and controversial issues, service-learning, and simulations of democratic processes.
A deep understanding of government institutions is critical to engaging with them to affect policy change.Public policy issues are by nature current and controversial. They are unresolved and members of our community may disagree vehemently about their very definition, much less available solutions.Service-learning may assu…

Let's Do Democracy and Make Sure Civics is Woven Throughout Illinois' ESSA State Plan

by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
Last month, I shared testimony provided to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) on their first draft of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) State Plan. My colleague Sonia Mathew weighed in separately on our work with Illinois Democracy Schools (see page 522).

ISBE has since issued its second draft of the ESSA State Plan, responding to more than 280 individual comments, 54 from organizations, 70 from students advocating for the arts, and 60 from librarians. This post represents a call for the state’s civic learning community to do democracy and weigh on the ESSA plan prior to December 27, 2016.

It’s fair to say that the second draft of the ESSA plan provides little more than lip service to the social studies and civics in particular. However, our collective work aligns well with the central thrusts of the plan.
Section 2 addresses state academic standards, and we have emerging K-12 social science standards due for implementation…