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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.

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Liberty is a Participatory Sport

liberty

Recently, I visited New York City with my four and six year old grandchildren. They were most excited about a visit to the Statue of Liberty. We arrived late at night and they both wondered aloud when they would be going to see the Statue of Liberty. The next day, we were at the top of the Empire State Building. They looked at the Statue of Liberty in the distance and told everyone within earshot that they were going there next. When we finally toured Lady Liberty, I reflected about the Statue of Liberty and what it truly symbolizes for our nation.

The people of France gave the Statue to the people of the United States in recognition of the friendship established between our two nations during the American Revolution. Over the years, the Statue of Liberty's symbolism has grown to include freedom and democracy as well as this international friendship.

To me, liberty ensures conditions, in which citizens are able to govern themselves, express their free will and take responsibility for their actions.

It is wonderful that our nation provides us the liberty to be responsible citizens. Adults may well understand liberty, but I wonder how our youth perceive liberty and how effectively our schools provide quality opportunities for all young citizens to engage in democratic actions.

Our nation depends on each generation to participate in our democracy as active principled citizens – in fact to govern, express free will and take responsibility. Schools are a critical social institution to assist youth to gain and enhance their democratic knowledge, skills and dispositions to ensure our liberties are sustained.

I took note when the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released the 2010 "Nation's Report Card on Civics" and for the third NAEP Civics Report in a row, (1998, 2006, 2010) the results were very disappointing. It should be a wake-up call for our nation that we are failing to impart the civic knowledge, skills and dispositions critical to being an informed and engaged citizenry.

The data revealed that only 27 percent of fourth-graders, 22 percent of eighth-graders and 24 percent of twelfth-graders scored proficient or higher in civics – meaning that millions of young Americans will be unprepared to be the informed and engaged citizens a healthy democracy requires (www.civicmissionofschools.org).

Schools, however, cannot solely prepare young citizens to express and sustain our liberty; every citizen must also model liberty and other democratic principles so that youth see, hear and experience active principled citizenship.

We should not depend only on our politicians, policymakers and public/private leaders to follow civic virtues while we stand on the sideline complaining when they do not. Liberty is a participatory sport – we all need to understand and express our liberty as citizens and ensure that our nation’s great experiment in democracy is successful.

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.
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