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The Solution Down the Hall: How Introductory Courses in American Government Can Engage Students
Unformatted Document Text:  Introduction Harvesting the Low-Hanging Fruit or Creating Better Citizens? During two blustery days in January of 2007, a number of youth mobilization scholars and activists from across the nation convened at the Johnson Foundation Wingspread Conference Center at Racine, Wisconsin. The goal of the gathering was to discuss mobilization efforts in the previous midterm election and to chart strategies for the 2008 election. There was considerable excitement, perhaps even jubilation, over the apparent rise in youth voting. We had turned the corner, many proclaimed, and we had reason to celebrate. Peter Levine, of the University of Maryland, reminded the gathering, however, that while youth turnout seemed to be on the rise, a scant 25 percent of those under 30 went to the polls in 2006. In a historic midterm election, just one out of four young Americans had bothered to vote. It was a splash of cold water. And while there is evidence that young Americans are more engaged in the 2008 presidential contest than in previous contests, several recent works suggests the problem of youth disengagement extends way beyond the lack of voting (see, for example, see, Kiesa, et.al., 2007; Colby, Ehrlich, Beaumont, & Stephens, 2003; Englund, 2002; Galston, 2003). According to Martin Wattenberg (2007), today’s young people are the lowest consumers of newspaper news ever measured, relying on sound bites and headlines from websites and television for their understanding of political events. Furthermore, they are the least politically knowledgeable generation ever measured. A recent report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress Civics Assessment only half of twelfth grade students identified the outcome when state and national laws conflict, and less than half could describe the meaning of federalism in the U.S. (NAEP 2006).

Authors: Shea, Daniel.
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Introduction
Harvesting the Low-Hanging Fruit or Creating Better Citizens?
During two blustery days in January of 2007, a number of youth mobilization scholars
and activists from across the nation convened at the Johnson Foundation Wingspread Conference
Center at Racine, Wisconsin. The goal of the gathering was to discuss mobilization efforts in the
previous midterm election and to chart strategies for the 2008 election. There was considerable
excitement, perhaps even jubilation, over the apparent rise in youth voting. We had turned the
corner, many proclaimed, and we had reason to celebrate. Peter Levine, of the University of
Maryland, reminded the gathering, however, that while youth turnout seemed to be on the rise, a
scant 25 percent of those under 30 went to the polls in 2006. In a historic midterm election, just
one out of four young Americans had bothered to vote. It was a splash of cold water.
And while there is evidence that young Americans are more engaged in the 2008
presidential contest than in previous contests, several recent works suggests the problem of youth
disengagement extends way beyond the lack of voting (see, for example, see, Kiesa, et.al., 2007;
Colby, Ehrlich, Beaumont, & Stephens, 2003; Englund, 2002; Galston, 2003). According to
Martin Wattenberg (2007), today’s young people are the lowest consumers of newspaper news
ever measured, relying on sound bites and headlines from websites and television for their
understanding of political events. Furthermore, they are the least politically knowledgeable
generation ever measured. A recent report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress
Civics Assessment only half of twelfth grade students identified the outcome when state and
national laws conflict, and less than half could describe the meaning of federalism in the U.S.
(NAEP 2006).


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