Let’s take it as a given that a Democracy requires a conscious and intentional effort to keep it running at it’s best possible state. We are in an era where - for better and for worse - passions are inflamed and positions are hardened. In the essay “Revitalizing Civic Education,” we make the case for a fresh approach to educating today’s citizens about their civic responsibilities and the threats our democracy faces.  But what exactly is effective citizenship? What does it mean to carry out your civic duty? Here we explore the characteristics of an effective citizen and opportunities for creating programs that aim to educate and empower today’s citizens.  Please let us know your thoughts.

An effective citizen:

  • Holds and defends democratic values, is a champion of human rights
  • Balances the needs of the individual with the needs of society
  • Understands and protects the values of the society’s founding documents (in the US- the Constitution)
  • Uses protects and defends a free press
  • Makes it a practice to be an informed citizen
  • Knows their positions on current issues and can evaluate candidates and ballot propositions
  • Protects the integrity of elections
  • Regularly works to improve their personal capabilities
  • Is emotionally intelligent, maintaining their integrity under social pressures
  • Practices independent thinking and decision-making and is cognizant of their limitations: personal, cultural, the impact of biases and fallacies
  • Is a leader among a society of leaders

If you are an individual who believes in upholding and defending our democracy, where do you turn to develop your skills as an effective citizen??  In our ever-changing world, and particularly at this point in history, it is critical that citizens of good faith commit to being civic lifelong learners. It means that you commit a few hours each week away from socializing, games and movies, and instead in learning communities developing yourselves and your communities in the company of trusted learning groups. PSA provides the space you need to participate in transformational learning experiences, with others that you’ll build trusted relationships with throughout the experience. Our model provides the structure to facilitate engaging experiences that put you on a path to effective citizenship.

This is the gap we address: continuing adult civic and consumer education delivered in a useful and enjoyable model.  We define civic and consumer education broadly, including the development of citizenship- skills, consumer empowerment, community engagement, the realms of policy and government, healthy practices in the workplace and schools, and in personal and family wellbeing. The larger goal is a more healthy society.

What will programs look like that address these goals we mentioned before?  What can you do to become a more effective citizen? Here are a few to consider. If you are interested in participating in the program, please join the waitlist on the program page. If you would like to develop or teach these or other programs, then please sign up for the Program Design Class. As always, feel free to contact us directly.

An effective citizen masters Media Literacy:

  • Makes it a practice to be an informed citizen
  • Uses protects and defends a free press

Do you really think that the media are the enemies of the people?  Let’s take a reality check here. The Press is known as the 4th Estate: the unofficial fourth branch of government. The press, on our behalf and with the support of our subscription investment, is our watchdog of institutions and other organizations and individuals in society.  You may not like what you see, but to cast out the entire profession is a dangerous overreaction. Isn't it a better choice to work with what you have and make it better? Will we succumb to childish name calling an unsubstantiated allegations? When someone says “trust me” without doing the work to earn your trust, that’s when your sales scam alerts should start ringing. The journalist's job is to come up with the “best obtainable version of the truth.”

If the media are put out of business, then how shall we stay informed?  Which sources provide the most reliable information? How shall we spend our limited time consuming and digesting current events? Might we suggest a light yet informative program called Media Meal Planning?  Just as when we plan a weekly groceries list, if we spend a little time up front planning out a menu, shop for quality ingredients, prepare our meals with care, we will be healthier, happier people.  Why not spend a little time planning your media diet? Come study what makes for a good editorial policy, learn to make better choices in how you spend your time and money. Could anyone really defend the argument that the National Enquirer is a better publication then the big national papers or even any decent local newspaper?   A serious and effective citizen does not eat ice cream for breakfast, drink beer for lunch, or waste their time on poor quality information drivel. Eat well. Consume quality information. You are what you eat.

An effective citizen knows their values and positions, and applies those values to evaluate candidates and ballot propositions

  • Knows their values and positions on current issues
  • Can assess and evaluate candidates and ballot propositions based on values

We are the managers of our democracy, but how informed are we about our own positions and the propositions and candidates we are asked to vote for? How many of us are clear about our own values, not just the ones passed on by our families or the ones held by our political party?  We have unprecedented access to information. We are flooded with marketing messages, news, media, pop culture, the demands of an always-on 7x24 workplace. But do we have the right information to connect our values to our voting decisions?

But when it’s “go” time: time to evaluate candidates and propositions and place our votes, how do we cast votes that align with our values? We all share common democratic values: personal freedom, the rule of law, freedoms of speech, belief, and the press. The real differences between us and our parties are in how we prioritize these values. We believe each of us owes it to ourselves and our society to step back and take a look at what we really believe and the direction we want our societies to grow.  Join us for a deep look and Craft Your Personal Platform.

An effective citizen is a lifelong learner, regularly seeking personal growth:

  • Regularly works to improve their personal capabilities
  • Fosters independent thinking and decision-making
  • Is cognizant of their limitation: personal, cultural, the impact of biases and fallacies

As so many of us are regularly stressed and stretched too thin, it is tempting to retreat, to seek shelter from the storms of our lives. The longer this continues, many of us make it our life’s goal to simplify, declutter, retreat to the older simpler time, to retire as quickly as we can. We bounce from coffee in the morning to wine and beer at night; the downside of pervasive competition unchecked by collective demand for wellbeing. In this environment of always on and always behind, it is difficult to make time for personal development and wellbeing.  But if we don’t, we’ll only have ourselves to blame.

Medical science and Gerontology research teach us to keep active as long as we can. Doctors push patients to become ambulatory as quickly as possible following surgery, and seniors are guided to take up new challenges such as a new language. Why? This is what keeps us vibrant and engaged. We know from our own experience that when we exercise, eat right, and get good sleep, we feel and perform better. This is also true for our intellectual, emotional, and civic lives.  If we don’t attend to personal growth, if we don't clear out resentments and ‘stories,’ we become intellectually and emotionally marginalized.

Life is a use-it-or-lose-it proposition

We have a ‘work-hard play-hard’ ethic in our culture that leaves no time for learning. About a quarter of adults have not read a book in the last year. There is no magic pill to staying current and crisp.  It’s like going to the gym: it’s about time in and reps completed. Wouldn't it be nice to build capacity building exercises into your daily routine? Wouldn't it be better to do it with a group where you cheer each other on? Join our Lifelong Learning program to conduct an assessment of your capabilities, conduct a reality check of your limitations, and set a plan to keep you growing and crisp.

This is part one of a six-part series that surveys topic areas of civic and consumer education. We assess the needs and opportunities, then present a few program ideas.  Some of these programs are ready, some need to be built. If you are interested as a participant, please sign up on the waiting list. If you are a subject matter expert in a relevant are and interested in designing a program, please contact us to discuss program development.