Selnet News – MARCH 2004 Submitted by Elizabeth Manning

“Encouraging students to actively participate in their communities is vital in preparing them for their future lives as citizens in our democratic society. Schools that provide students opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills to become actively engaged in civic life are important for the future of our democracy and the academic and social growth of our young people.”
Gene Carter, Executive Director of ASCD and member of the National Commission on Service-Learning

Citizenship and Service-Learning in K-12 Education
RMC Corporation, January 2003

“Serving others is not just a form of do-goodism or feel-goodism, it is a road to social responsibility and citizenship. When linked closely to classroom learning…it is an ideal setting for bridging the gap between the classroom and the street, between the theory of democracy and its much more obstreperous practice…. Service is an instrument of civic pedagogy…. In serving the community, the young forge commonality; in acknowledging difference, they bridge division; and in assuming individual responsibility, they nurture social citizenship” (Barber, 1998).

Definitions of Citizenship
The Education Commission of the States (2000, p. 3), in its publication entitled “Every Student A Citizen: Creating the Democratic Self” discusses citizenship in terms of “moral enterprise,” focusing on the need to help young people have a sense of the common good and their place in achieving it. (Education Commission of the States, 2000).
Others believe that young people need to master the skills and knowledge necessary to understand the way that society and government work. Those who subscribe to this view often point to the particular knowledge, skills, and dispositions measured in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Typology of Citizenship
Westheimer and Kahne posited an interesting typology of citizenship that emerged from the variations of definitions they encountered while conducting their research.

  • The personally responsible citizen is one who acts responsibly in his/her own community. “Programs that seek to develop personally responsible citizens hope to build character and personal responsibility by emphasizing honesty, integrity, self-discipline, and hard work” or through “nurturing compassion by engaging students in community service” (2001).
  • The participatory citizen is one who “actively participates in the civic affairs and the social life of the community at local, state, and national levels” (Westheimer & Kahne, 2001) Educational programs that support the development of this type of citizen “focus on teaching students about how government and other institutions (e.g., community-based organizations, churches) work and about the importance of planning and participating in efforts to care for those in need” (p. 4).
  • The justice-oriented citizen is one who “critically assesses social, political, and economic structures and explores collective strategies for change that challenge injustice and, when possible, address root causes of the problem” (Westheimer & Kahne, p. 5). Programs that intend to develop this type of citizenship emphasize social change and students’ skills and commitments to equity and other issues associated with justice.
  • Indicators of Civic Engagement/Disengagement
    There is a large, convergent body of research that shows the growing disenchantment and disengagement of young people with some of the traditional democratic structures of society. This is juxtaposed with the growing engagement with community. The following sources are most frequently cited in this regard.

    Putnam, in his book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (2000), detailed the weakening of civic ties over the past generation and the impact this has had on the quality of education, safety, physical and emotional health, economic development, and citizenship. Highlights from his book include the following:

    Political Participation:

  • Voting in Presidential elections was down from 62.8% in 1960 to 48.9% in 1996.
  • A Roper poll conducted each month from 1974 to 1998 asked Americans, “Have you recently been taking a good deal of interest in current events and what’s happening in the world today, some interest, or not very much interest?” Figures revealed a drop from 50% to 38%.
  • The rate of political party identification declined from 75% to 65% from 1960 to 1990 (Putnam, 2000, p. 38)
  • A UCLA study found that only 28% of entering college freshmen in the fall of 2000 reported an interest in “keeping up to date on political affairs,” down from 60.3% in 1966.
  • “The frequency of virtually every form of community involvement measured in the Roper polls declined significantly, from the most common-petition signing-to the least common, running for office.
  • Communal forms of activity, such as attending local meetings or joining local organizations, declined just as precipitously. From the mid 1970s to 1995, attendance at a public meeting on town or school affairs declined from 23% to 12% and serving on a local committee declined from 10% to 6% (Putnam, 2000, p. 43, citing Roper polls and other surveys).
  • According to Roper polls, from 1973-1974 to 1993-1994, there has been a decline by 23% of those writing to Congresspersons, by 22% of those signing a petition, and by 14% writing to a newspaper to express an opinion.
  • “The faction of the public who engaged in none of the dozen forms of civic participation rose by more than one-third over this period (from 46% in 1973 to 64% in 1994), while the band of civic activists who engaged in at least three different types of activity was cut nearly in half (from 20% to 11%). Moreover, these trends appear consistently in all sections of the population and all areas of the country…” (Putnam, 2000, p. 46).
  • Civic Participation:
    Membership in large civic organizations (e.g., Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Elks, Lions, League of Women Voters, Masons, Hadassah) has experienced sustained decline since 1969. Active participation in formal organizations based on average number of hours invested, has generally declined by 50% from the mid 1970s to mid 1990s (Putnam, 2002).

    Informal Social Connections:
    Putnam’s evidence also suggests that across a very wide range of activities, the last several decades have witnessed a striking diminution of regular contacts with our friends and neighbors. We know our neighbors less well, and we see old friends less often. In short, it is not merely ‘do good’ civic activities that engage us less, but also informal connecting” (Putnam, 2000, p. 115).

    Altruism, Volunteering, and Philanthropy:
    “A wide range of evidence…suggests that young Americans in the 1990s displayed a commitment to volunteerism without parallel among their immediate predecessors. This development is the most promising sign of any that I have discovered that America might be on the cusp of a new period of civic renewal, especially if this youthful volunteerism persists into adulthood and begins to expand beyond individual care giving to broader engagement with social and political issues” (Putnam, 2000, p. 133).

    Putnam attributes the decline in civic engagement to pressures of time and money, including special pressures on two career families, suburbanization, the effects of electronic entertainment, and most importantly, generational change. He believes that we must create more social capital to reverse the alarming trend in civic disengagement. Social capital is about social networks, norms of reciprocity and high levels of trust that advance coordination and civic life for mutual benefit (1993). “To build bridging social capital requires that we transcend our social and political and professional identities to connect with people unlike ourselves” (Putnam, 2000, p.411).

    Relationship Between Citizenship and Service-Learning
    Many researchers believe that service-learning can be effective in re-engaging young people
    1. By providing opportunities to increase student attachment to social networks (Putnam, 2002) and
    2. By increasing opportunities for civic participation, thereby increasing the connection between students and their communities (Yates and Youniss, 1999).

    Sample Studies of Service-Learning and Civic Skills in K-12 Populations

    Mary Kirlin. (2002, September). Civic skill building: The missing component in service programs? PS: Political Science and Politics.
    According to the author, learning about political life through participation is the key to the development of civic skills. Kirlin states that important program components leading to later civic involvement are participatory activities such as facilitating students’ discovery of community problems that exist, giving them the opportunity to establish goals and organize themselves to reach goals, understanding whom they need to contact, expressing opinions and identifying like-minded individuals, and reaching consensus about actions. Service-learning that is “pre-packaged,” that is, predetermined by a teacher or a community-based organization, does not have these features and therefore may not produced desired civic outcomes.
    Kirlin suggests that four civic skills are particularly important to nurture, and that each of these has a series of underlying skills that teachers can nurture in their classrooms. The skills are:
    1. Understanding distinctions between public, nonprofit, and private sectors of society through understanding the context for events and issues, and acquiring and thoughtfully reviewing news;
    2. Deliberating about public policy issues which requires the ability to think critically about issues and understand multiple perspectives on issues;
    3. Interacting with other citizens to promote personal and common interests, including the ability to understand democratic society and collective decision making as a norm for democracy, the capacity to articulate individual perspectives and interests, working with others to define common objectives, and creating and following a work plan to accomplish a goal; and
    4. Influencing policy decisions on public issues, which require the ability to identify decision makers and institutions, and understand appropriate vehicles for influencing decisions.

    Service-learning program design that intentionally includes activities to help students acquire these skills should lead to stronger civic outcomes.

    David E. Campbell. (2000, September). Social capital and service-learning. American Political Science Association PS Online
    Available online at
    Using data from a national survey, Campbell showed that young people who volunteered were more likely to volunteer later in life and those who participated in political activity were more likely to engage in political activity later in life. Campbell concluded that these data show that participation in community service activities “facilitates civic engagement generally and political activity more specifically, both while individuals are young and when they become adults” (p. 5). This appears to be the case because social capital is being built through the development of networks of social connectedness, as theorized by Coleman. Thus “the thicker the networks of social connectedness among students and between students and adults within their community, the more opportunities a norm of generalized reciprocity will have to development. Service-learning, then, should be directed toward thickening these bonds of connectedness…. This is best accomplished by instituting programs that maximize interaction between students and adults and that constitute collaborative effort, providing, as Putnam (2000) put it, a ‘template’ for future collective action” (p. 5).

    William Morgan and Matthew Streb. (undated). First do no harm: Student ownership and service-learning. Unpublished paper. Indiana University, Center for Participation and Citizenship.
    This paper argued that the level of student voice within service-learning programs, defined as student leadership in the process and ownership of a project, is the factor that determines whether there are large and statistically significant changes in students’ academic and civic outcomes. Authors also posited that the lack of student voice has no or even negative impacts on those outcome areas.
    The authors cited a number of studies within service-learning that bolster their arguments, and explained that voice is important because students will be more absorbed in projects of their own design, are more likely to succeed at a task with greater significance, and are likely to feel capable when they do so. “Student voice is a major component of any service-learning program and it is only when students have an input in their project that the pedagogical approach will have a positive effect on participant.
    When the authors tested data to examine the effects of youth voice, the results showed statistically significant positive effects. Students who had service-learning experiences with student voice also showed an increase in their knowledge of political events in greater numbers than their peers who had service-learning experiences without the same levels of voice. Finally, students with voice were less likely to skip classes. They were less cynical about government, wanted to be more politically active, increased their amount of social capital (social networks and participation in out-of-school organizations), and became more tolerant of groups different from themselves. They were also more likely to develop relationships with mentors in the service-learning program and participate in social action.
    Further, this study showed that low quality service-learning programs, that is, those where students have no voice, produces negative effects. The authors conclude by warning that “mandating service-learning could backfire if students do not have a significant voice in the projects” (p. 21). Further, extensive professional development is needed to ensure that educators design their programs effectively. The results also showed that service-learning does not have to be tied to any particular content area to yield educational and civic benefits. Suggestions for further research are provided.


    Barber, B. R. (1998, May). The apprenticeship of liberty: Schools for democracy. The School Administrator, 10-12.

    Coleman, J. S. (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital. American Journal of Sociology, 94. (Supplement S95-S120).

    Education Commission of the States. (2000). Every student a citizen: Creating the democratic self. Denver, CO: Author.

    National Association of Secretaries of State. (1999). New Millenium Project-Part I: American youth attitudes on politics, citizenship, government, and voting. Washington, DC: NASS

    National Center for Education Statistics. NAEP 1998 Civic Report Card highlights. Washington, DC: U. S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.

    National Commission on Civic Renewal. A nation of spectators: How civic disengagement weakens America and what we can do about it. Final report. Retrieved online January 29, 2003.

    Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.

    Putnam, R. D., Leonardi, R., & Nannetti, R. Y. (1993). Making democracy work: Civic traditions in modern Italy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Saguaro Seminar Civic Engagement in America. (2000). Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey. Retrieved online January 29, 2003.

    Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America. (2000). Retrieved online January 29, 2003.

    Tolo, K. W. (1999). The civic education of American youth. In S. Black, Tomorrow’s citizens (pp. 48-51), American School Board Journal, 187(7).

    Verba, S., Schlozman, K. L., & Brady, H.(1995). Voice and equality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Westheimer, J., & Kahne, J. (2001). What kind of citizen? The politics of educating for democracy. Unpublished paper.

    Yates, M., & Youniss, J. (Eds.). (1999). The roots of civic identity: International perspectives on community service and activism in youth. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    (Kaye, Cathryn Berger, The Complete Guide to Service-Learning. Free Spirit Publications, 2003)

    A high school in Hawaii with a large number of immigrants recognized the challenges that many students faced attending a new school and living in a new country. High school classes partnered with a local immigration center and became knowledgeable about the services offered and the potential difficulties immigrants in the community would encounter. Students combined this new information with skills learned at school to assist the center in updating the brochures given to new immigrants. This project met the writing, civic, and diversity standards [in Hawaii].

    To make an impact on voters in the 2000 elections, students in Chicago planned two approaches. First, they developed a voter education guide highlighting the presidential candidates. First, the students researched the candidates and the issues to develop the informational guide, which was distributed to students, parents, and community residents. Second, students helped register new voters at their school by advertising to parents and unregistered voters in their community. The students teamed up with community organizations to make the registration drive a success. Teachers reported that students followed the election closely and had a true investment in the process. For follow-up, students worked with the high school to make sure each 18-year-old received a birthday card with a voter registration form inside. Next step? Students hope to examine school government election procedures and transform “popularity” elections into elections involving substance and issues.


    Kaye, Cathryn Berger. The Complete Guide to Service-Learning (Free Spirit Publications, 2003).
    Full of cross-curricular activities, ideas and resources to inspire students and teachers to use service-learning, this author includes more than 300 annotated book listings to combine literature and service-learning. The book references over 175 real life service-learning projects, including reproducible forms and handouts. A real must for service-learning practitioners.

    RMC Research Corporation, Connecting Thinking and Action: Ideas for Service-Learning Reflection (2004) RMC Research Corporation, Denver, CO.
    Reflection is one of the most powerful components of service-learning. This 104 page book helps educators by giving them ideas for connecting thinking and action in service-learning. Copies can be obtained from RMC Research Corporation by calling 1-800-922-3636; by e-mailing; or by writing to 1512 Larimer Street Suite 540, Denver, CO, 80202. The cost of the publication is $20. A pdf file of the publication is available from the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse (


    The National Service-Learning Partnership was established to provide leadership and community for advocates, supporters and practitioners of service-learning. Go to
    And click on the link “Enroll.”

    State Farm Issues RFP for School Districts to Grow Practice of Service-Learning
    State Farm Insurance Companies® Announces A Three-Year Initiative to Grow the Practice of Service-Learning in K-12 School Districts.

    State Farm Insurance Companies®, in collaboration with the National Service-Learning Partnership, seek proposals from K-12 school districts for a three-year initiative to increase the practice of service-learning through the creation of well-crafted partnerships between schools, businesses and communities.

    The State Farm Good Neighbor Service-Learning Initiative will fund six school districts a total of $90,000 ($15,000 each) over three years to integrate and sustain service-learning in their schools, school districts and surrounding community.

    For more information and to download Request for Proposal (RFP) applications, please visit:

    Proposals are due April 16, 2004.


    Don’t miss your opportunity to participate in the next cohort for the University of Wisconsin-River Falls’ Graduate Certificate in Service-Learning. In partnership with NYLC, the University is offering the first of five courses, “Introduction to Service-Learning,” which begins June 24, 2004. Course content is provided entirely online and through the use of other distance-learning tools.
    Acquire the training you need to conduct service-learning projects that will increase your students’ involvement and enhance their academic achievement. Teachers who have effectively implemented service-learning techniques report higher grade-point averages, fewer discipline problems, increased attendance and a more positive attitude toward learning among participating students.

    Whether you plan to complete the certificate or just take one course, you need to apply and meet the minimum requirements for graduate study at UW-RF before registering for the course. For more information, go to or email

    This certificate program is supported by the State Farm Companies Foundation in partnership with the National Youth Leadership Council.

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