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Political Participation Exercises as a Means to Teach Civic Skills, Engage Students and Recruit Majors
Unformatted Document Text:  looking to instill civic education into their courses, with the assumption that any type of service learning would automatically teach political knowledge and skills. Indeed, service learning teaches the student to serve others for the sake of serving and for the common good – as Aristotle had imagined. At the same time, the student gains greater awareness of life outside of the university and accrues personal benefits, such as career or educational advancement. Thus, in the latter half of the twentieth century we witnessed the explosion of service learning into the field of political science (Battistoni, 2000). However, while these outcomes are appreciated, they are not necessarily the primary concern for all political science instructors. For some instructors, the primary goal of participation exercises is to deepen the political socialization and sense of civic duty that began in first grade for that student. For many political science instructors, like ourselves, service learning and political participation assignments are seen as an effective way to continue the political socialization process and to further promote civic learning. For other instructors, the primary goal is to make course concepts more relevant, and political participation exercises, with their “hands-on” approach to learning, are often thought to be more effective than traditional lecture. To volunteer on a campaign engages the student more than a professor pontificating about campaigns. Both of these goals – civic education and increased understanding of concepts – are good ones and achieving them through participation exercises would make for a successful course. However, in the first part of this century, it became apparent that service learning had been slightly misunderstood and taken for granted. Instructors seemed to assume that just including service learning in the syllabus and awarding points for activity would ensure high levels of comprehension and understanding. This, however, is not entirely the case. For a service 6

Authors: Lupo, Lindsey. and Griffin, Rebecca Brandy.
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looking to instill civic education into their courses, with the assumption that any type of service
learning would automatically teach political knowledge and skills. Indeed, service learning
teaches the student to serve others for the sake of serving and for the common good – as Aristotle
had imagined. At the same time, the student gains greater awareness of life outside of the
university and accrues personal benefits, such as career or educational advancement. Thus, in
the latter half of the twentieth century we witnessed the explosion of service learning into the
field of political science (Battistoni, 2000).
However, while these outcomes are appreciated, they are not necessarily the primary
concern for all political science instructors. For some instructors, the primary goal of
participation exercises is to deepen the political socialization and sense of civic duty that began
in first grade for that student. For many political science instructors, like ourselves, service
learning and political participation assignments are seen as an effective way to continue the
political socialization process and to further promote civic learning. For other instructors, the
primary goal is to make course concepts more relevant, and political participation exercises, with
their “hands-on” approach to learning, are often thought to be more effective than traditional
lecture. To volunteer on a campaign engages the student more than a professor pontificating
about campaigns.
Both of these goals – civic education and increased understanding of concepts – are good
ones and achieving them through participation exercises would make for a successful course.
However, in the first part of this century, it became apparent that service learning had been
slightly misunderstood and taken for granted. Instructors seemed to assume that just including
service learning in the syllabus and awarding points for activity would ensure high levels of
comprehension and understanding. This, however, is not entirely the case. For a service
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