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Using Community-Based Research to Encourage Student Engagement with Local Government
Unformatted Document Text:  Introduction Aristotle argued in the Politics that political institutions, such as the state, are communities aimed at the highest good and that it is only through engagement in these communities that citizens can set forth and discuss notions of justice. The “founding fathers” of modern academic political science, as Stephen Leonard labeled them, were also motivated by a similar idea of improving student citizens through civic education (Leonard 1999, 749). Stephen Frantzich and Sheilah Mann point out that in 1903 when the American Political Science Association (APSA) was founded, “two educational objectives were claimed for the emerging discipline: citizenship and training for careers in public service.” They go on to suggest that “[f]or the student, direct experience was recommended to supplement formal instruction in government and politics” (1997, 193). This focus on improving and encouraging engagement through education has continued as a main theme throughout the history of the APSA. For example, in just its first 36 years (1903 – 1939) of existence, Hindy Schachter reported that the APSA created four committees to study civic education (Schachter 1998, 631). Most recently, the Task Force on Civic Education for the Next Century was created in 1996 because “Democracies, from nations to small communities, cannot survive and thrive without robust engagement in the political controversies (and the well-earned celebrations) that sustain them. Civic engagement in, and a personal sense of responsibility for, the health of our inescapably political life are the lifeblood of a liberal democracy” (Carter and Elshtain 1997, 745). Given this deeply rooted concern for civic engagement, many political scientists have been dismayed by recent findings that Americans “. . . at this century’s end seem indifferent, cynical, and perhaps afraid of politics. The evidence for the rise of political apathy and cynicism is convincing” (Carter and Elshtain 1997, 745). While it has been widely noted that all 2

Authors: Meinke, Tim.
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Introduction
Aristotle argued in the Politics that political institutions, such as the state, are 
communities aimed at the highest good and that it is only through engagement in these 
communities that citizens can set forth and discuss notions of justice.  The “founding fathers” of 
modern academic political science, as Stephen Leonard labeled them, were also motivated by a 
similar idea of improving student citizens through civic education (Leonard 1999, 749).  Stephen 
Frantzich and Sheilah Mann point out that in 1903 when the American Political Science 
Association (APSA) was founded, “two educational objectives were claimed for the emerging 
discipline: citizenship and training for careers in public service.”  They go on to suggest that 
“[f]or the student, direct experience was recommended to supplement formal instruction in 
government and politics” (1997, 193).  This focus on improving and encouraging engagement 
through education has continued as a main theme throughout the history of the APSA.  For 
example, in just its first 36 years (1903 – 1939) of existence, Hindy Schachter reported that the 
APSA created four committees to study civic education (Schachter 1998, 631).  Most recently, 
the Task Force on Civic Education for the Next Century was created in 1996 because 
“Democracies, from nations to small communities, cannot survive and thrive without robust 
engagement in the political controversies (and the well-earned celebrations) that sustain them. 
Civic engagement in, and a personal sense of responsibility for, the health of our inescapably 
political life are the lifeblood of a liberal democracy” (Carter and Elshtain 1997, 745).
Given this deeply rooted concern for civic engagement, many political scientists have 
been dismayed by recent findings that Americans “. . . at this century’s end seem indifferent, 
cynical, and perhaps afraid of politics.  The evidence for the rise of political apathy and cynicism 
is convincing” (Carter and Elshtain 1997, 745).  While it has been widely noted that all 
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