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Political Participation Exercises as a Means to Teach Civic Skills, Engage Students and Recruit Majors
Unformatted Document Text:  Political Participation Exercises as a Means to Teach Civic Skills, Engage Students and Recruit Majors Lindsey Lupo, Ph.D., Point Loma Nazarene University Rebecca Brandy Griffin, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine Introduction Scholars from Aristotle to Putnam have asserted that political participation improves the character of both the individual and the society. The role of the citizen in a democratic political system cannot be understated – even elite theorists such as Schumpeter saw a crucial role for the everyday citizen in the sense that they vote the decision-makers into power. In their study of the relationship between civic education and student knowledge, Niemi and Junn (1998) argue the importance of the topic of civic education: “For ordinary citizens to have political knowledge has frequently been considered one of the most important qualifications for self-governance.” As scholars of political science, we are thus intimately aware of the importance of creating the next generation of active citizens. And as instructors of political science, we see beyond the societal benefits of civic engagement; we also recognize the individual benefits accrued to each student that deepens their level of involvement in the political arena – benefits that range from a greater sense of their role in a democracy to a more insightful understanding of the course concepts. This paper asks a number of questions regarding civic education, political science, and the way in which civic participation skills are taught to both majors and non-majors taking our classes. We first ask – and rather quickly answer – whether or not it is the proper role of political science instructors to teach civic skills. We argue that civic education indeed has a crucial role in our higher education political science curricula. As such, we argue that political participation exercises are an excellent way to promote civic engagement. We next turn to the individual benefits of civic education; specifically, do political participation exercises help to 1

Authors: Lupo, Lindsey. and Griffin, Rebecca Brandy.
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Political Participation Exercises as a Means to Teach Civic Skills, Engage Students and
Recruit Majors
Lindsey Lupo, Ph.D., Point Loma Nazarene University
Rebecca Brandy Griffin, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine
Introduction
Scholars from Aristotle to Putnam have asserted that political participation improves the
character of both the individual and the society. The role of the citizen in a democratic political
system cannot be understated – even elite theorists such as Schumpeter saw a crucial role for the
everyday citizen in the sense that they vote the decision-makers into power. In their study of the
relationship between civic education and student knowledge, Niemi and Junn (1998) argue the
importance of the topic of civic education: “For ordinary citizens to have political knowledge has
frequently been considered one of the most important qualifications for self-governance.”
As scholars of political science, we are thus intimately aware of the importance of
creating the next generation of active citizens. And as instructors of political science, we see
beyond the societal benefits of civic engagement; we also recognize the individual benefits
accrued to each student that deepens their level of involvement in the political arena – benefits
that range from a greater sense of their role in a democracy to a more insightful understanding of
the course concepts.
This paper asks a number of questions regarding civic education, political science, and
the way in which civic participation skills are taught to both majors and non-majors taking our
classes. We first ask – and rather quickly answer – whether or not it is the proper role of
political science instructors to teach civic skills. We argue that civic education indeed has a
crucial role in our higher education political science curricula. As such, we argue that political
participation exercises are an excellent way to promote civic engagement. We next turn to the
individual benefits of civic education; specifically, do political participation exercises help to
1


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