About
Cascade Matters is the blog of Cascade Educational Consultants. Cascade has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations and civic development. We are committed to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens. Learn more about us.

Cascade Educational Consultants is an educational consulting firm committed to high-quality equitable teaching, learning and serving environments for all students to succeed in school and in life. Click here to learn more about our services...




twitter-icon
Follow Cascade on Twitter!






Reconnecting Civic Engagement

Microsoft Word

I clearly remember working with the Education Commission of the States in 2000. We released a report titled, “Every Student A Citizen”. It encouraged increased civic education in schools through curriculum, effective practices, school climate and policy support. This week's Gallup poll, "
What Americans said about public schools" only serves to reinforce our work in 2000.

Here’s what we said then about the state of our country:

“… dis-ease gnaws at the collective soul. Something feels wrong. A big part of that ‘something’ is a deepening sense of civic disconnection. Many Americans are disengaging from fragmenting social structures that no longer address their real needs. Many feel overlooked and betrayed by governments that seem beyond the reach of ordinary citizens or captive to special interests. At the same time, more and more Americans seem to be disengaging from even the most fundamental acts of citizenship, such as voting and keeping informed about public issues. These disconnects emerge in sharper, more painful relief among the nation’s youth.”Twelve years later, in spite of many social and technological achievements, this “dis-ease” has strengthened rather than abated in our society.



The economic, civic, political, health, education, and social opportunity and engagement gaps are not just growing passively but are actually being proactively encouraged by individuals and groups misunderstanding our democracy and the civic virtues upon which this nation was developed.

The virtues of equity and engagement are reduced in favor of ideology and winning at all costs; the rules of law and sense of justice are employed when they meet specific needs but ignored when the focus is on the common good; trust has been replaced with blame; ethics and honesty appear to be virtues of earlier generations, a nostalgia to be invoked in books and television commercials; and principles of individual freedom and opportunity have been perverted into zero-sum, winner-takes-all exploitation and consumption.

In such an environment, disengagement from others is rationalized as a service to oneself. Community investment is a sign of lost focus (or at least it is an afterthought to self focus). Inclusion is inefficient and difficult to rationalize.

I don’t believe that most of us believe in these values or this vision of our country. I think many of us have been swept up by a larger American narrative driven by a relative few wealthy and powerful. We are being swept along by inertia and must take a moment to reflect and find new models to cultivate and live out our values.

In this regard, there are some promising national initiatives that are engaging our younger generations in their schools in recapturing a sense of an America in which equity, justice, opportunity, and inclusion are fundamental to our individual and collective sense of self.

Special Olympics Project UNIFY focuses on social inclusion in over 2,100 schools; building and expanding on academic and physical inclusion. Using sports as its platform, Project UNIFY is a dynamic collaboration between Special Olympics and school communities across the United States that engages young people with and without intellectual disabilities to promote attitudes of acceptance and inclusion in schools.

The Project UNIFY vision is that by inspiring this change in young people, the next generation’s attitudes and actions towards those with intellectual disabilities will be radically different and exponentially more inclusive than what we have ever witnessed in the past.

Project UNIFY activities require special and general education teachers to work together, students to move beyond their comfortable cliques, school leaders to support and sustain social inclusion and the community to be a genuine partner with the school.

The National School Climate Center (NSCC) focuses on assisting schools to measure and improve the quality and character of schools. NSCC has developed a (1) data-driven process that recognizes the student, parents, school personnel and community voice; and (2) school improvement strategy that mobilizes the “whole village” to support safe, supportive, engaging, helpfully challenging and joyful schools focused on academic, social, emotional and civic development.

With the recent focus on ensuring safe school environments for students, NCSS, goes beyond safety with an equal focus on teaching and learning, school relationships and the physical environment to ensure all students and adults are engaged as stewards of a quality school climate.

NSCC school climate assessment tools solicit and analyze the experiences, insights and feelings of youth and adults in schools – ensuring inclusiveness. Youth are equals in providing information on school climate and engaged in the action planning.

These two national strategies move the needle toward more inclusion and narrow some of the divides that trouble me. As these programs are sustained and others focusing on democratic principles emerge my sense of dis-ease will be reduced, but it takes a comprehensive approach and as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us “there is a role for everyone” to advance our democracy.

Here are some links and resources on the topic:
  • Every Student A Citizen: http://www.ecs.org/html/projectsPartners/nclc/NCLC_Publications.asp
  • Special Olympics Project UNIFY: http://www.specialolympics.org/project_unify.aspx
  • National Center for School Climate: www.schoolclimate.org
About the author: Terry Pickeral, president Cascade Educational Consultants has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations and civic development. His commitment is to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens.

See Older Posts...
© 2009-15 Cascade Educational Consultants | Phone: (360) 303-7480 Contact Me