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Civil participation or civil engagement is defined as individual as well as collective actions that are designed for the identification and addressing of issues that concern the public. It is active citizenship whereby citizens have a direct input when it comes to the process of making policies and those that have direct experience of services or emerging social needs are given a voice when it comes to the determination of policy and practice. Civic participation has several elements but its most basic sense is that one of making decisions, or governance over who, how and by whom the resources of a community are allocated. The principle of civic participation underscores the basic principle of democratic governance, which means that sovereignty is found within the citizens. Civic participation is about the right of people to define what is good for the public, to determine policies which they will seek the good and perform reforms institutions which do not serve that intended good. It is working together so as to make the civic life of the communities and developing a combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivations so as to make the intended difference. Civic participation refers to the promotion of life within a community through both political and non-political processes.
Currently in the United States, there has been a huge decline in civic participation. This is a worrying situation since civic participation is the only sure way of democracy. Democracy works best when the political institutions such as the local government, parliament and parties are close to the voters. This requires that the citizens are able to make their needs known to those who represent them and they should give an explanation of what they are doing in order to meet those needs and the mechanism that they have put in place to make sure that this communication is possible. However, the decline in civic participation prevents this from happening. This paper will look at the decline in civic participation in the U.S. And what can be done about the situation. It will also give a proposed solution to the problem of low civic engagement in the U.S.
Decline in civic participation in the U.S.
Recent debate on the American society has mainly focused on the decline in civic participation and consequently the fraying of the social fabric. What is lost in the discussion is often the fat that what matters is the amount of civic activity but how it is distributed; it is not just about how many people take part but who those people are. When examining the decline in civic engagement we note a trend in decline in the electoral turnout, which is from a high of 63% in the elections in 1960 the voting in presidential elections, has gone down until when it dipped its lowest in 1996 to 49%. However, what is not often mentioned is the fact that this falloff in the turnout has not been even across educational groups. Statistics show that between 1968 and 1992 the turnout rates among those who did not complete high school went down by a third whereas among the college graduates it remained constant. This leads to an electorate that is not only smaller in its size but also a less representation of all voters that are eligible. A quarter of the American adults haven engaging in civic life which can be defined broadly as volunteering and attending public meetings since the year 200. Despite this, civic engagement is still on the decline over the past two decades voting has gone down by 25% and any interest in public affairs has gone down by 20%. Between 1973 and 1994, number of Americans that have attended public meetings in school or in town affairs in the previous years has gone down by 40%. These declines are greatest among those who have better education (Sidney, Schlozman, & Henry, 1997.). It is well-known that United States lags behind other democracies when it comes to voter turnout. The civic participation in America is unequally distributed that hews closely to the social lines faults. The bias in participation towards those that are well educated and those that are well heeled is pronounced in the United States. There is another trend where dollars substitute for hours as an essential unit of the political input hence participation ends up being more unequal. Growing income inequality within the United States will only lead to a further decrease in civic participation. Political participation increases with an increase in income. Those who are affluent are more likely to take part in public affairs because they have more stakes in various policy areas. The United States has never had strong labor unions and hence lower-income citizens are less mobilized to political activity particularly when it comes to economic issues. The affluent therefore are more likely to participate since their income increases their stake within the system (Sidney, Schlozman, & Henry, 1997.).
Work-related unions and professional societies are an important locus of social solidarity since they are a mechanism for mutual assistance. They have been a common form of civic connectedness for a long time now. However, the decline in the number of unions in the United Sates now has contributed to a decline in civic engagement.
Importance of civic participation
An important question that we should ask ourselves is what why should we care that some people are more active compared to others and hence why some government officials hear more from others as compared to others. If those who do not take part in politics are distinctive in their opinion or in their need for governmental action then it means that the principle of equal responsiveness to all might be compromised. At the same time, those who participate actively ion politics are not necessarily a representation of views of the quiescent ones. Therefore, when those who are disadvantaged due to low education levels or income do not participate they act as a representation of needs, concerns and opinions. Civic participation is the heart of democracy since through civic activity citizens in a democracy seek to take control of those that will hold public office and hence have an influence on what the government does. Political participation offers a mechanism through which citizens are able to communicate on their needs, preferences and interests and bring about pressure to respond (Sidney, Schlozman, & Henry, 1997.).
Solutions to a decline in civic participation
One proposition to reducing a decline in civic participation is education. Education is essential for helping the middle class Americans when it comes getting their full contribution in the economy. The introduction of civic learning has been done to reverse the civic recession in the U.S. currently there is a commitment to helping in the advancement of civic learning within America (Reiss, 2012). The purpose of civic learning is the cultivation of citizens that are engaged and effective which is a national imperative. Civic learning will mean that there is civic knowledge and skilled gained as in structural content hence there would be an increase in social engagement as it is applied in learning. Skills that are acquired through civic engagement are the twenty first century skills, which the employers want. There have been nine steps that have been presented in the civic learning and engagement in democracy, which is a great start. The first step involves convening and catalyzing schools and post-secondary institutions so as to enhance and increase the quality of civic learning and engagement. The second step would be the identification of additional civic indicators. There will be development of improved indicators so as to identify the student's civic strengths and weaknesses. The third step is the identification of promising practices pertaining to civic learning and democratic engagement and encourages further research in learning…[continue]
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