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Learning Democratic Citizenship: An Experiment in Teaching Deliberation
Unformatted Document Text:  Democracy Fellows were More Analytical and Critical of Political Processes and Their Role in Them Shortly after that first-year seminar experience we began to notice what we came to call “sophistication” in the way the Fellows thought and talked about politics. For example, while the Democracy Fellows clearly would count the “keeping up” spoken of by the cohort group as important and indicative of active citizenship, Fellows’ representations of that “keeping up” process were much more thoughtful and nuanced. They spoke of “developing an open mind,” “formulating my opinion on key social issues,” “giving serious thought to specific ways that I can get involved,” “becoming public-minded.”—much more taxing and formidable mental exercises and imaginative outcomes than simply watching and sorting through television commentary. Gastil’s and Dillard’s (1999) research suggests that deliberation’s cognitive and communicative process results in a general sophistication in political judgment. Though certainly not true of every single student in the Democracy Fellows program, these advanced cognitive abilities generally manifested over and over throughout the program in such other venues as assessing a deliberation, considering a hypothetical situation, evaluating the deliberative model, critiquing their own performances as deliberators, and critiquing the power structures of the university and American politics. Democracy Fellows were More Efficacious in their Political Attitudes and Language The perceived lack of political efficacy on the part of young people has been widely documented (The Harwood Group, 1993; Hays, 1998; Owen, 1997, Poole & Mueller, 1998), and our students were no exception. What is important in this finding is 9

Authors: Harriger, Katy. and McMillan, Jill.
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Democracy Fellows were More Analytical and Critical of Political Processes and Their
Role in Them
Shortly after that first-year seminar experience we began to notice what we came
to call “sophistication” in the way the Fellows thought and talked about politics. For
example, while the Democracy Fellows clearly would count the “keeping up” spoken of
by the cohort group as important and indicative of active citizenship, Fellows’
representations of that “keeping up” process were much more thoughtful and nuanced.
They spoke of “developing an open mind,” “formulating my opinion on key social
issues,” “giving serious thought to specific ways that I can get involved,” “becoming
public-minded.”—much more taxing and formidable mental exercises and imaginative
outcomes than simply watching and sorting through television commentary. Gastil’s and
Dillard’s (1999) research suggests that deliberation’s cognitive and communicative
process results in a general sophistication in political judgment. Though certainly not
true of every single student in the Democracy Fellows program, these advanced cognitive
abilities generally manifested over and over throughout the program in such other venues
as assessing a deliberation, considering a hypothetical situation, evaluating the
deliberative model, critiquing their own performances as deliberators, and critiquing the
power structures of the university and American politics.
Democracy Fellows were More Efficacious in their Political Attitudes and
Language
The perceived lack of political efficacy on the part of young people has been
widely documented (The Harwood Group, 1993; Hays, 1998; Owen, 1997, Poole &
Mueller, 1998), and our students were no exception. What is important in this finding is
9


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