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For the Students, By the Students: Redirecting Civic Education through the American Trustees Project
Unformatted Document Text:  At the end of the semester, we specifically asked students if the AT project changed their understanding of citizenship. Their responses reveal greater depth and nuance in understandings of citizenship. Students told us the following: “The AT project definitely changed my idea of what citizenship is. Prior to this class, I probably would have said someone who is a legal resident of a country and that would have completed my definition. Today, I understand that citizenship is about more than a status given to you by the government and it encompasses working with members in your community to help others.” “Absolutely the AT project has influenced my thoughts on citizenship. It was amazing to hear the different views on citizenship and see the different people who truly care about their communities. I would have to say that I value participating in ones community more than I had before the project. This is because of the time spent getting to know Brian Haley [the group’s trustee] and his inspiring accomplishments, hearing other groups trustees and their views on citizenship as well as their inspiring words, and finally the lecture material that we covered during the course of the semester.” “The AT project had a big influence on my ideas of citizenship because it illuminated areas of the word that I would never have considered. It showed me both how I didn’t have a clear understanding of the word, much less the concept, and that everyday action fall under the umbrella of being a ‘good citizen.’ Specifically in the Justice Oriented Approach, I now appreciate much more everyday actions by ‘ordinary citizens.’” Student responses at the end of the semester also imply greater civic efficacy. As the following responses show, their statements suggested less cynicism, greater optimism, and more empowerment as a result of the exercise. Textual responses supporting these claims appear below. Naturally, these statements are attached to a class evaluation (and must be examined with caution). Nevertheless, we look forward to administering pre-and post semester surveys of future students (as well as surveying former students) to investigate these suggestive findings in greater detail. Comments related to cynicism • “The project helped me tremendously to understand the true meaning of citizenship. It made me realize that I had a valid reason for finding it so hard to answer the question what is citizenship. Thanks to the many presentations that were shown in class it gives me a better idea on the type of citizen I want to become which is a combination of all. It also showed me the importance of taking the imitative to create change. Most of all, it helped me realize that instead of feeding the cynicism I hold against our government I should do my best to get informed and participate so that I can have a say.” • “Yes, the project did change how I view citizenship. I realize that you can have criticism without cynicism. I find myself really understanding the power of social movements and their ability to affect change. I especially appreciate the gravity of informing and involving America’s young people in the process and making them feel empowered.” www.annettestrauss.org | 9

Authors: Jarvis, Sharon. and Han, Soo-Hye.
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At the end of the semester, we specifically asked students if the AT project changed their
understanding of citizenship. Their responses reveal greater depth and nuance in understandings of
citizenship. Students told us the following:
“The AT project definitely changed my idea of what citizenship is. Prior to this class, I
probably would have said someone who is a legal resident of a country and that would have
completed my definition. Today, I understand that citizenship is about more than a status given
to you by the government and it encompasses working with members in your community to
help others.”
“Absolutely the AT project has influenced my thoughts on citizenship. It was amazing to hear
the different views on citizenship and see the different people who truly care about their
communities. I would have to say that I value participating in ones community more than I had
before the project. This is because of the time spent getting to know Brian Haley [the group’s
trustee] and his inspiring accomplishments, hearing other groups trustees and their views on
citizenship as well as their inspiring words, and finally the lecture material that we covered
during the course of the semester.”
“The AT project had a big influence on my ideas of citizenship because it illuminated areas of
the word that I would never have considered. It showed me both how I didn’t have a clear
understanding of the word, much less the concept, and that everyday action fall under the
umbrella of being a ‘good citizen.’ Specifically in the Justice Oriented Approach, I now
appreciate much more everyday actions by ‘ordinary citizens.’”
Student responses at the end of the semester also imply greater civic efficacy. As the following
responses show, their statements suggested less cynicism, greater optimism, and more empowerment
as a result of the exercise. Textual responses supporting these claims appear below. Naturally, these
statements are attached to a class evaluation (and must be examined with caution). Nevertheless, we
look forward to administering pre-and post semester surveys of future students (as well as surveying
former students) to investigate these suggestive findings in greater detail.
Comments related to cynicism
“The project helped me tremendously to understand the true meaning of citizenship. It made
me realize that I had a valid reason for finding it so hard to answer the question what is
citizenship. Thanks to the many presentations that were shown in class it gives me a better idea
on the type of citizen I want to become which is a combination of all. It also showed me the
importance of taking the imitative to create change. Most of all, it helped me realize that
instead of feeding the cynicism I hold against our government I should do my best to get
informed and participate so that I can have a say.”
“Yes, the project did change how I view citizenship. I realize that you can have criticism
without cynicism. I find myself really understanding the power of social movements and their
ability to affect change. I especially appreciate the gravity of informing and involving
America’s young people in the process and making them feel empowered.”
www.annettestrauss.org | 9


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