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Learning Democratic Citizenship: An Experiment in Teaching Deliberation
Unformatted Document Text:  decidedly more individualistic attitudes and language about politics emanating from the cohort group and more communal references from the Democracy Fellows. When the senior cohort group was asked to consider why they might engage in politics, they responded with the importance of protecting one’s self-interest, focusing on the way in which health care, social security, and taxes would affect them. Each of these examples, of course, could be regarded as a community issue as well, but the cohorts used them as personal examples of why they might be persuaded to become politically active. One student put it plainly: “Politics must affect me directly to gain my interest.” The Democracy Fellows, on the other hand, at the end of their intensive training in deliberative theory and practice, often began the answer about political motivation, not with individual pay-offs, but with the premise of individual responsibility: “[t]he individual must accept the responsibility that comes with being a citizen;” “The time, energy, and interest must be present [in the individual] from the beginning;” “[I]ndividuals themselves must change their own perspectives before their cynicism of politics will disappear.” For the Democracy Fellows, that communal position remained largely intact and was reaffirmed in their final interviews concerning the importance of what David Mathews (1996) calls “public making” i.e., widespread inclusion, choice work, common ground, voice, perspective-taking…in short, as one Fellow put it: “a better life for all.” In rather stark contrast to the descriptions of the senior cohort, when asked what it would take to align politics with their preferred vision, Democracy Fellows mentioned “less self interest,” “empowerment of citizens,” “less disconnect between the politicians and the people,” and “more dialogue.” 11

Authors: Harriger, Katy. and McMillan, Jill.
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decidedly more individualistic attitudes and language about politics emanating from the
cohort group and more communal references from the Democracy Fellows. When the
senior cohort group was asked to consider why they might engage in politics, they
responded with the importance of protecting one’s self-interest, focusing on the way in
which health care, social security, and taxes would affect them. Each of these examples,
of course, could be regarded as a community issue as well, but the cohorts used them as
personal examples of why they might be persuaded to become politically active. One
student put it plainly: “Politics must affect me directly to gain my interest.”
The Democracy Fellows, on the other hand, at the end of their intensive training
in deliberative theory and practice, often began the answer about political motivation, not
with individual pay-offs, but with the premise of individual responsibility: “[t]he
individual must accept the responsibility that comes with being a citizen;” “The time,
energy, and interest must be present [in the individual] from the beginning;”
“[I]ndividuals themselves must change their own perspectives before their cynicism of
politics will disappear.” For the Democracy Fellows, that communal position remained
largely intact and was reaffirmed in their final interviews concerning the importance of
what David Mathews (1996) calls “public making” i.e., widespread inclusion, choice
work, common ground, voice, perspective-taking…in short, as one Fellow put it: “a
better life for all.” In rather stark contrast to the descriptions of the senior cohort, when
asked what it would take to align politics with their preferred vision, Democracy Fellows
mentioned “less self interest,” “empowerment of citizens,” “less disconnect between the
politicians and the people,” and “more dialogue.”
11


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