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Learning Democratic Citizenship: An Experiment in Teaching Deliberation
Unformatted Document Text:  lesson about issues and timing. A series of events (i.e., an annexation battle) came and went between the time the issue book was begun and the deliberation was held. What was very important in Spring 2003 may have seemed less so to citizens in the fall. Students also underestimated the time and initiative that off-campus preparations would require, i.e., site selection and affordability, access, transportation of people and materials. Accustomed to access in the campus newspaper, email network, and easy campus signage, students also found publicity for this community-wide event to be difficult. Their most significant failure, however, happened in the area of recruiting. In our experience students ultimately realized that their potential “recruits” for the community deliberation were “real” people, with real lives, jobs, and concerns—the people who students say they will be when they have time to be “civically active.” Furthermore, having no investment in the deliberative training of the student organizers, these community citizens would not consider coming out on a cold fall evening for anything less than a crucial social or political concern, widely heralded, and even then, the odds of large and varied attendance are not good. Mistakenly buoyed by their ability in the campus context to call upon classmates, friends, faculty members, and sympathetic Administrators, students were daunted by the difficulty of coaxing community citizens— especially a diverse cross-section—to attend. The community deliberation process itself offered some lessons as well. Though, for the most part, student moderators appeared to have functioned well, some were unprepared for tough questions about the inevitability of sprawl, the complexity of the issue, and whether or not citizen discussion could really change anything. Some students 17

Authors: Harriger, Katy. and McMillan, Jill.
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lesson about issues and timing. A series of events (i.e., an annexation battle) came and
went between the time the issue book was begun and the deliberation was held. What
was very important in Spring 2003 may have seemed less so to citizens in the fall.
Students also underestimated the time and initiative that off-campus preparations would
require, i.e., site selection and affordability, access, transportation of people and
materials. Accustomed to access in the campus newspaper, email network, and easy
campus signage, students also found publicity for this community-wide event to be
difficult.
Their most significant failure, however, happened in the area of recruiting. In our
experience students ultimately realized that their potential “recruits” for the community
deliberation were “real” people, with real lives, jobs, and concerns—the people who
students say they will be when they have time to be “civically active.” Furthermore,
having no investment in the deliberative training of the student organizers, these
community citizens would not consider coming out on a cold fall evening for anything
less than a crucial social or political concern, widely heralded, and even then, the odds of
large and varied attendance are not good. Mistakenly buoyed by their ability in the
campus context to call upon classmates, friends, faculty members, and sympathetic
Administrators, students were daunted by the difficulty of coaxing community citizens—
especially a diverse cross-section—to attend.
The community deliberation process itself offered some lessons as well. Though,
for the most part, student moderators appeared to have functioned well, some were
unprepared for tough questions about the inevitability of sprawl, the complexity of the
issue, and whether or not citizen discussion could really change anything. Some students
17


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