Defining Civic Engagement
What Is Civic Engagement?
Read the definition, discuss, and think of examples.
You are now starting a lesson on civic engagement. Before diving in, let’s start by defining what civic engagement is.
First, work with one or two of your classmates to write a definition for “civic engagement.” How do you think a dictionary would define this term?
After you have written down your definition, read the quote below by Professor Thomas Ehrlich, and discuss the questions that follow.
Thomas Ehrlich, Civic Responsibility and Higher Education (Westport, CT: The American Council on Education and The Oryx Press, 2000), vi.
We live in a democratic society with certain rights.
What are some of these rights?
As beneficiaries of these rights, we also have certain responsibilities.
What are some of these responsibilities?
What do democratic governments need from their citizens in order to function?
One vital aspect of a healthy democracy is civic engagement. Why?
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
- Thomas Jefferson
Can you think of any examples of civic engagement and civically engaged Americans who have made a difference in democracy in the United States?
At the core of the issue, civic engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make that difference.
It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and nonpolitical processes.¹