Category Archives: Own It

West and Coates: Self-transcendence and Obligation to the Truth

Agnostic or atheist viewpoint is not the issue. Identity is. Identity is politics. Politics as in: how individuals choose to govern themselves. Identity as in: Self who is morally, ethically, and culturally, intentional, responsible, and accountable to themselves, Others, and the larger society; to find just, equitable and compassionate means for allocating resources amongst the peoples on planet Earth. Identifying as Self and Self as Other is one of the most meaningful, purposeful acts of being human.

So what’s the beef between these two individuals, Dr. Cornel West and Ta-Nehisi Coates? There is none. Each writer is expressing an aspect of the whole. Just as visible light enters a prism and exits into arrays of color, so too have these commentaries. So what are we to make of these two perspectives? We can reflect back on the totality that is the larger truth. For example, race and class are inter-related and indivisible. That is to say, you cannot talk about one without acknowledging the affect and effects of the other. They are inextricably bound together. So what is the conversation? For me, a budding ClassCrits scholar, it is about human identity. How is it that some humans transcend perceived differences that serve to divide and create hierarchies? How did Gandhi become Gandhi, or King become King, or Hamer become Hamer, or any of the women and men of praiseworthiness determine in their minds to identify with the totality, the larger truth?

Through my research and multi-disciplinary study, I’ve come to understand that many people will achieve self-actualization, yet only a few perhaps reach self-transcendence, where pursuit of equity and access to those known conditions necessary to achieve human potentiality is the expression of their authentic Self. And, that any human-made politic that seeks to deny or hinder the flourishing of full human potentiality for everyone must be denied.

What does this mean? Well, to start, take Dr. West’s position of criticizing (and, he does also occasionally provide positive critique) elected leaders. It is the intentional exercise of responsible holding-of-account of elected leaders. Dr. West, for me, informs his audience of where improvement can and must be made. These admonitions illuminate, up-close, where humanity can and must do better. In this way, current and future leaders can increasingly make judgments reduced of bias and heuristics, thereby reducing errors in decision-making on critical policies that form the culture and society.

It appears that Mr. Coates is seeking a similar end, in that one characteristic of journalism is obligation to the truth. Yet I do not know, from his writings, if Mr. Coates is seeking, for himself, his community, or the larger culture/society, the psychological well-being found in recognizing and accepting the unknowable/unknown (aka this cosmic, grand wondrous, and awesome thing called existence), and accepting the unifying truth behind it: a commitment to unitive values; and the realization that in the moment of decision-making there appear to be dualities, yet the way through the tension is to seeking and realize collectivist values (goals, interests, and motivations). These concepts may sound funny to the ear, yet are scientifically sound. The concepts are gaining broader understanding outside academia and research laboratories.   As so many wise humans have said before, are saying now, and will continue to say, “Love is the answer, peace is the way.”

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Why Discussing Race and Class Continues to be Necessary | International Day for the Elimination of Discrimination

Getting up close to examine[1] why everyone everywhere needs to continue race and class discussions if we love one another.

Own it!

Through critique and criticism, I examine my thoughts and own what I believe–leaving space to modify my beliefs as new and truer information is received.

Finding purpose and meaning in life is human nature. The brain by its design generates thoughts about our experience of being alive. What does it mean to be on a planet, in what appears to be a cosmos devoid of other similar life forms? Are we unique? Is our presence here of some significance, whether grand or inconsequential?

Is it human nature for the brain to think about and then move individuals to act on those thoughts and form ‘out-groups’ based on biases like skin tone, sexuality, gender, abilism? Or to form ‘heirarchies’ based on heuristics like stereotypes, cognitive ease, the halo effect, et cetera? The human brain produces and processes thoughts that involve ideas and concepts about the future. What is the future for the planet where humans discuss the source of these biased and hierarchical thoughts and behaviors?

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 March). Thus, this reflection of the Oscar nominated feature film documentary, I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO.   What struck me most profoundly is author James Baldwin’s prescience in clearly understanding the dynamic at play in America regarding power’s use of racial bias as a means to economic gain while at the same time ignoring the oppression and suffering this brings to individuals and communities.

This documentary film does just that. It explores and examines the life of distinguished American James Baldwin. Baldwin devoted his life to understanding the nature of humans to racially discriminate and manufacture class hierarchies. Those thoughts formed his writings, his understanding of reality and his experience of the world. He lived a fascinating life. One that lead him to believe that only through acceptance that these biases and hierarchies are the product of the thoughts and actions of a few intent on achieving and amassing power, and then rejecting that power structure could humans live the realized shared aspiration to be equal and pursue happiness.

 Feel It!

I acknowledge the scientific fact that emotions influence the thoughts that inform my opinions.

Exposing myself to the thoughts of those who have dedicated their lives to exploring history, philosophy, ethics, religion, science, et cetera enriches my experience and understanding of what this life is. It gives me knowledge of what to do, how to live a life as an independent individual (with responsibilities to self) and how to live a life as a dependent individual in community (with responsibilities to others).

Watching this film was admittedly emotionally challenging. Seeing the history of America unfold in the murders of democratic society leaders Macolm X, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy, Meadger Evers, civil rights activists Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney, and so many more as it maintains race and hierarchy to provide a continuous source of cheap labor for capitalism’s economic system. It has become an increasingly deregulated, unaccountable economic system that has spread to the global community of all humans.

 Live It!

I can now more consciously act in ways that form my experiences of the world, the lens through which I see, the filter through which I understand others and myself.

The film has enlivened me to face the reality that generates these racial and class divides. I actively seek insights from fact-based and truer sources that tell me how, in America’s flawed democracy, how to resist and dismantle the limiting, biased thought and actions that keep humans everywhere from equality with one another and the ability to purse happiness. I resist anxiety-generating thoughts of my own and those of others that are not based in truth and fact. And, I act in the spirit of all humans are created equal, and the pursuit of happiness.

 Love It!

I’m now more fully aware of my thoughts, how they influence my feelings and actions. I experience life with more emotional well-being and happiness.

James Baldwin inspires me. His debate with William F. Buckley, Jr. remains an icon to discussion and logical conclusion to end racism and class hierarchy.


#jointogether #standup4humanrights #fightracism #AfricanDescent

[1] the Educating Gossip pioneered a way to approach life using critique, criticism, emerging science of how humans acquire belief through the processes of the brain (thoughts and emotions), and the spirit or energy of belief is expressed in the world. For more information, see SSRN Paper

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HOLI, LENT, LAW & ME | Spring Festivals and Celebrations…


Spring Festivals and Celebrations – Getting up close to examine[1] spirituality, law and me as both an individual and a member of community.

Own it!

Through critique and criticism, I examine my thoughts and own what I believe– leaving space to modify my beliefs as new and truer information is received.

Spring ushers in the arrival of celebrations. Today, people are celebrating Holi, a Hindu spring festival known as the “festival of colors.” The festival signifies the arrival of spring and the victory of good over evil. Other people are well into Lent, a Christian spring celebration. Lent is a time of year when individuals and community reflect on how to live together as one, on this planet. The individual engages in self-refection to identify and sacrifice a personal behavior that impedes realization of this universal goal. (It is not self-punishment or extreme hardship.) Recurring rituals and traditions are designed to bring the individual and the community together to advance peace and harmony.

Laws alone cannot create a civil society. The individual and community also have a responsibility to develop local customs and set of behaviors, and to inspire to the spirit and aspirations of the democratic society.

 Feel It!

I acknowledge the scientific fact that emotions influence the thoughts that inform my opinions.

I can easily feel discouraged and isolated and alone when I am seemingly in community with people. I attend conferences and seminars, book club meetings and other gatherings. Yet I leave with no lasting connections. What I realized in reading about Lent is that the scheduling and looking forward to engaging with groups and individuals who share a common desire for inclusive love, without judgment, creates a different dynamic. It can create more satisfying feelings of community and shared accountability to others, and myself.

Live It!

I can act more consciously in ways that form my experiences of the world; shape the lens through which I see the world; that filters the thoughts that form my understanding of others and myself.

So for Lent, my self-sacrifice and repentance is to release behaviors that keep me from maintaining a deeper awareness of my human nature (that is, to produce thoughts that can be biased; to feel and be influenced by emotions; to need to be connected to something greater than myself). I will sacrifice anxiety about current events and instead, face the reality of uncertainty. I will sacrifice doubt about expressing spirituality.  I will accept that it is a human motivational need. I will sacrifice my fear of death (non-being) and instead, act in ways that affirm that all humans are created equal and it is their nature to pursue happiness.

Love It!

I’m now more fully aware of my thoughts, how they influence my feelings and actions. I experience life with more emotional well-being and happiness.

[1] the Educating Gossip pioneered an approach life using critique, criticism, emerging science of how humans acquire belief through the processes of the brain (thoughts and emotions), and the spirit or energy of belief is expressed in the world.

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Live It! | New Online Courses

Legal Practice and Feeling Go(o)d: #1 California Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 3-110 Failing to Act Competently

Legal Practice and Feeling Go(o)d: #2 Critical Race Theory – Introduction to the Genre, Intellectual Influences and Emerging Issues

Legal Practice and Feeling Go(o)d: #3 Competence Issues

Legal Practice and Feeling Go(o)d: #4 Practice, Praxis and Connecting with Feelings of Well-Being

Own It! How appropriate it is on International Women’s Day to face the world as it is.  Making this conscious  choice to go up close, and examine our beliefs today and everyday is empowering.  It takes courage to critically ask:  Where did these beliefs came from? Do these beliefs now need to change in light of new understandings?  This journey must be prepared for before it is begun.

Feel It!  It can feel scary and unsettling to have our core beliefs challenged.  Especially when those beliefs are revealed to be untrue or based on bias and mistakes.  Yet, it is the honor of being human to learn, stretch and grow.  Making space for our thoughts, feelings and actions to constantly develop is a sign of maturity, and a civic responsibility.  Yet, it is emotionally hard to do sometimes.

Live It!  These online courses are designed to prepare those who are willing to undertake this classic human hero’s journey that results in seeing life as it is.  The courses are one hour each, with transcripts and audio.  Completion of the courses can lead to personal and social transformation because it reveals how to live a human life that is rich with purpose, meaning, and a truer understanding of others and ourselves.

Love It!  Sign up for the courses and embrace the new beginnings that await.


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Ryan Lochte, Moral Panics, Dog Whistles, Oh My! | the Educating Gossip ™

RLotche“Moral panics” and “dog whistles” are used by capitalist power holders to distract citizens and scramble their thinking. The result is a loss of energy and focus that could be used to sustain demands for political equality.

The Ryan Lochte story is a power-wielding capitalist’s dream come true.  A story of white privilege played out by three Olympic medalists, filled with violence, racism and lies. This supposed moral panic (an instance of public anxiety or alarm in response to a problem regarded as threatening the moral standards of society) is another instance of distraction.  Learn to identify and ignore these stories.

Stay focused on moving the government (Executive branch, legislative branch (e.g. Congress), the courts, and the citizen lobbyists) to appoint a Supreme Court justice now (govern); enact polices that will overturn Citizen’s United, stop fracking (stop the poisoning of life sustaining water reserves in America), move from oil, gas and coal to solar and wind (reduce the production of life threatening ozone and carbon emissions), re-negotiate the federal subsidies to insurance companies (stop the corporate greed that profits by raising the cost of health insurance, creating the dual evils of bankrupting individuals while at at the same time denying them life sustaining wellness).

This is an incomplete list of where American attention needs to remain focused. Yet it is a place to start, were American fundamental values of fairness, freedom, equality, responsibility, integrity and security can be strengthened. Empathy and responsibility for oneself and others are core values of America. Healthcare, education, food on the table, and social systems are essential to the social-psychological well being of America.

Who’s got time for irrelevant moral panics and dog whistles? I don’t. Own it, Feel it, Live it, Love it!

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Debiasing 2016 Election | A Hero’s Journey

When debiasing oneself from intuitive thinking—System 1 the fast, automatic and emotional, and System 2 the slow, deliberate and systematic –one can understand and accept that it is indeed the beliefs and ideology held by the candidates that matter. Ideology, the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program
is different from beliefs (defined as a degree of conviction of the truth of something especially based on a consideration or examination of the evidence.) Both a candidate’s belief and ideologies matter. Although in this coming election, people may feel that there is not a significant difference between the candidates, there are in fact very significant differences both in beliefs and ideologies. In the hero’s journey that is life, one takes up the courage to explore the differences in the candidates as it relates to ideology and beliefs about democracy, and the people whose lives will be affected by the selection of a candidate. This process often challenges one’s own biased, intuitive thinking. It is often uncomfortable yet necessary as an informed voter. Own it! Feel It! Live It! Love It!

View Now at DemocracyNow!

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#OscarsSoWhite | #WhiteBETAwards

As a social justice activist and social movement scholar, I believe the more irons in the fire (that is to say, creative solutions to the crisis), the better. When one solution gets hot, we can hit it and forge (implement) correction action.

What we can do Now:  Visual Signs of Protest and Support

Perhaps others in the industry who also believe things must change in order for people of color to be nominated more fairly, can quickly build a coalition amongst the people in the industry to wear arm bands, ribbons, something that stands out on camera on the night of the awards. This will show the academy and the world that the industry recognizes there is a crisis, and is willing to do something to bring about change.

Other Strategies

I appreciate Jada Pinkett Smith’s comments. I’m not certain, but think she is suggesting that the people in the industry come together and have their own alternate awards.

I still believe separate is not equal. At a time when there is support for modifications to the voting process the academy uses, I would advocate for weighted votes: the older you are, the less weight your vote gets. This action can be supported on at least two solid grounds: to reflect the voter’s distance from current events; and the voter’s probable status of not having viewed many of the recent movies under consideration. These are reasonable grounds for the action.

Although I hear Spike Lee and Rev. Al Sharpton’s call for a boycott, I believe it makes those who are concerned and are willing to work for a better solution invisible by their absence. Boycotts have their usefulness. I’m just not sure this is neither the time nor place to use that strategy. But again, more irons in the fire, more possible opportunities for solutions and positive resolution to the crisis.

Living It and Loving It,

the Educating Gossip™

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What I Need to Know and Do About Global Climate Change

There's Still Time to Save the Planet.
There’s Still Time to Save the Planet.








Whoa…well, what I need to know about climate change is that the world’s people need to do something about it NOW.   Uh duh.  Scientists, world leaders, activists and others have been trying to get our attention for many years now.  Climate change is now at a crisis point.  But, I’m feeling hopeful because there are things I can do to move national policy forward.

According to an interview in Oprah magazine, former Vice President Al Gore believes that in a crisis, people tend to pull together.  He notes that during super storm Sandy, “We saw New Jersey governor Chris Christie and President Obama put partisanship aside and act in a powerful and unified way.”  I believe that Congress will get the message that teamwork is required for national service.  National debate and discussion will occur on this issue, options will be identified, and public policy will be enacted.

It’s not greed.  Bankers and corporations do what will advance their interests.  They are doing what the economic system is telling them to do.  Pressure from citizens is effective when it goes to the power structure and clearly says that unless the system is changed, we all will be facing a very big problem.


Own It

I’ve come to understand that there is a lot of misinformation and confusion in the discussion about what’s happening with the climate.  But after watching, reading and listening to diverse voices, I own my belief that the global will experience in the coming years major weather impacts due to changes measured in the increasing carbon in the atmosphere.

Feel It

I understand the feelings about this issue:  it feels frightening, confusing, and hopeless.  But with action, I feel that I am working with a team of Americans who understand that it it makes no difference if the climate crisis is manmade or not.  What matters is that humans must prepare for the impacts of increased climate volatility, rising oceans, food production disruptions, etc.  And, if we can do things now that can slow down the climate change, let’s do it now.  To be on a team with esteemed scientists, economists, and world leaders makes me feel joyous, happy, and confident.

Live It

What am I doing?  I’m participating on the Bill Moyer & Company site  at following along with the discussion about this issue.

Love It

And…I’m loving it!  When my family and friends ask me, “Whatcha doing?”  I tell them about the books I’m reading, the DVDs and programs I have watched, the petitions I’m supporting and the discussions I’m having with people around the globe who are, like me, passionate about this issue.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter to see who is leading the debate and discussion on global climate change.  And…get involved!

the Educating Gossip™


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CIVICS 1 B – Let’s Go!

CIVICS 1 B – Let’s Go!

In the United States, we have an economic system and a political system.  Most people tend not to distinguish between the two.  But it is very important to do so.  Let’s look a little closer at the political system.

The Foundations of the American Political System

You’re probably learned, or knew at some time or another, what the basic values and principles are that form the foundation for the American political system.  In a democracy, this knowledge and understanding among the citizens is expected to increase with each year of our lives.  With age comes wisdom.

The fundamental expressions for American principles and values are important to understand for many reasons.  Americans are people bound together by the ideals, values, and principles they share rather than by kinship, ethnicity, or religion, which are ties that bind some other nations of the world.

Americas’ ideals, values, and principles have shaped their political instructions and affected their political processes.  The ideals, values, and principals set forth in the nation’s core documents are criteria that Americans use to judge the means and the ends of government, as well as those of the myriad groups and organizations that are part of civil society.  So, understanding of fundamental principles provides the basis for a reasoned commitment to the ideals, values, and principles of American constitutional democracy.

Theses values and principles of constitutional democracy that the American political system is based upon can be found expressed in such fundamental American documents as the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution including the Bill of Rights, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the Federalist Papers, and Antifederalist writings.  Other documents which express and elaborate upon the values and principles of the founding documents include the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail, and landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions.  Such fundamental expressions of American principles and values are important for us to understand.  It is from these ideals and thoughts that American democracy is shaped

Americans realize that the United States and its constitutional democracy are not utopian.   It has its shortcomings and there is room for improvement.  However, a constitutional democracy is a way of allowing the competing ideas, values, goals, and interests of the people, individually or in groups, to compete with one another in a peaceful manner.  A constitutional democracy affords its citizens means of reconciling their differences and their competing visions of truth without resorting to violence or oppressions.  Constitutional democracy is a limited government, where powers governing the people are shared at the national, state, and local levels.  The founding documents saw this complex system as a means of limiting the power of government and placing in the hands of the people numerous opportunities to participate in their own governance.  This system helps us hold our governments accountable, and helps to ensure the protection of the rights of individuals.

America’s Presence on the World StageThe United States exists in a global community.  We are part of an interconnected world in whose development we play an important role.  America’s political democracy has a profound influence abroad.  Our democratic ideals and the benefits of its open society have drawn the attention and inspired the hopes of people worldwide.  And just as the ideas expressed in the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the U.S. Constitution, and other fundamental expressions of American principles and values has a profound influence abroad, we must also remember that America and its citizens have been deeply influenced by the institutions and practices of other countries and the cultures of other peoples as well.

We need, as a minimum, to acquire basic knowledge of the relationship of the Unites States to other nations and to world affairs.  Citizens need to make judgments about the role of the United States in the world today and what course American foreign policy should take.  This means we need to understand the major elements of inter-national relations and how world affairs affect our own lives, and the security and well being of our communities, states, and nation.



Sounds daunting, but it’s not.  We’ve been acquiring an understanding of American democracy while in grade school through high school.  The seeds of successful citizenship have been planted in us all our lives.

  • We understand that citizenship in this American constitutional democracy differs from membership in authoritarian or totalitarian regimes.
  • We understand that each citizen is a full and equal member of a self-governing community.
  • We understand that each citizen has fundamental rights.
  • We understand that each citizen is entrusted with responsibilities and must carry out those responsibilities.

Just as we are responsible in our civil society to cleanup after ourselves, drive safely and be courteous, we also know that we are responsible to make certain that the rights of other individuals are respected.  It’s also a fundamental responsibility of citizens to make certain that government serves the purposes for which it was created and does not abuse the power that the people have delegated to it.   The Declaration of Independence, for example, proclaims the primary purpose of government: “That to secure these Rights (Life, Liberty, ad the Pursuit of Happiness) governments are instituted among Men.”   And, the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution says that the purposes of government are to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty.”  We as citizens strive to hold our government accountable to these purposes it was created to serve.


We need to be unafraid and rather fearless and fierce to

  • continually expand our intellectual and participatory skills, and
  • work tirelessly to improve our public and private character traits.

Our private character traits include becoming an independent member of society; assuming the personal, political, and economic responsibilities of a citizen; and respecting individual worth and human dignity.

Our public character traits include participating in civic affairs in an informed, thoughtful and effective manner; and promoting the healthy functioning of American constitutional democracy.

Sometimes these traits of public and private character are referred to as civic dispositions.  We must all understand the role and importance of these civic dispositions in our system.  We have to be considerate of the rights and interests of others, and of participating in civic affairs in an informed, thoughtful and civil manner.


Our learning and applying civic knowledge and skills is influenced all the time: at home, social interaction among friends, relatives, members of the community, co-workers, neighbors, television, online media, radio, and even the entertainment programs we choose to watch.  All of these life contexts provide arenas in which our civic knowledge is acquired, civic skills are used, and civic traits of public and private character are applied.  It’s where we learn about rules, accepted behaviors, and basic democratic and constitutional principles and values.  And, we also recognize how deeply influenced we are by the institutions and practices of other countries and the cultures of other peoples.


Although some would argue that in general, civil society is on the decline in America, I see it more as something each one of us can work on improving.  As individuals, as we each enjoy participating as citizens in this constitutional democracy, our lives will be richer.   It provides new meaning in our lives: to grow our understanding of American constitutional democracy and renewed purpose in our lives: to live responsibly, increasing our knowledge, intellectual and participatory skills.

We’ll own it – the role of governments and the relationship of the United States to other nations and to world affairs; understanding fundamental principles that provides the basis for a reasoned commitment to the ideals, values, and principles of American constitutional democracy.

We’ll feel it – the impact of the various levels of government on our daily lives, the lives of our communities, the welfare of the nation as a whole, and world affairs.

We’ll live it – read, develop our intellectual skills, make informed judgments about the role of governments, seek diverse information sources, engage in many participatory opportunities to be involved in government in addition to elections, campaigns, and voting.  We’ll exhibit civic dispositions by thoughtfully participating in public affairs, and civic life—traits such as public spiritedness, civility, and respect for law, critical mindedness, and a willingness to listen negotiate, and compromise are indispensable for the nation’s well-being

We’ll love it – be filled with joy and happiness as we attain individual and public goals, hand-in-hand with participation in political life.  We’ll unabashedly declare that as participating citizens, we are maintaining and improving our American constitutional democracy that is dependent on us to be informed, effective, and responsible.

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Back to the Basics – Civics 1A

Lately I’ve been talking to people who are so busy just making it through the day.  And I understand.  Just to keep up with the daily basic needs of food, shelter and clothing can be daunting.  Yet now is not the time to forget our civic responsibility.

So many people have asked me to simply tell them what to do.  Well, after some research in the area of civic education, I offer the following for your consideration and action.


Some say the three basic components to the well-being of American constitutional democracy are

1.) knowledge,

2.) intellectual and participatory skills, and

3.) Civic dispositions.

Knowledge Component

As we progress through life, our knowledge of the issues should deepen.  We are expected –by the time we are of the age to vote and with each passing year– to have a greater understanding of topics posed by these five questions:

1.  What are civic life, politics, and government?

2.  What are the foundations of the American political system?

3.  How does the government established by the Constitution embody the purposes, values, and principles of American democracy?

4.  What is the relationship of the United States to other nations and to world affair?

5.  What are the roles of citizens in American democracy?

I’ll admit I’ve never thought through these types of questions in a purposeful way before.  It’s quite a thought provoking exercise.  I find its fun to do with friends and especially school age students.  If you have children, ask them these questions.  It quite possible they may surprise you and have some pretty insightful answers, especially since schools include civic education in the curriculum.

Intellectual and Participatory Skills Component

This component involves the use of knowledge to think and act effectively and in a reasoned manner in response to the challenges of civic life in a constitutional democracy.  As citizens become more comfortable using these skills, they can identify, describe, explain, and analyze information and arguments, and evaluate, take, and defend positions on public policies.  When working with others, citizens can monitor and influence public and civic life by clearly articulating ideas and interest, building coalitions, seeking consensus, negotiating compromise, and managing conflict.

Civic Dispositions

This is a kinda fancy way of saying how the individual sees himself or herself within the democracy:  what are the rights and responsibilities of individuals in society and to the advancement of the ideals of the political community and civil society.  An example is like the individual’s willingness to become an independent member of society; respect individual worth and human dignity; assume the personal, political, and economic responsibilities of a citizen; abide by the “rules of the game,” such as accepting the legitimate decisions of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority; participate in civic affairs in an informed, thoughtful, and effective manner; and promote the healthy functioning of American constitutional democracy.

That said, I keep coming back to the question I often get from people when I talk to them about civic engagement: Why should you care about civic life, politics, and government?  My best answer is that if we understand civic life, politics, government, and civil society, we can make informed judgments about what government should and should not do, how we are to live our lives together, and how we can support the proper use of authority or combat the abuse of political power.

So…what is civic life, politics, and government in American constitutional democracy?

I’ve come to understand that our private (or personal) life is devoted to the pursuit of private and personal satisfactions, while in contrast our civic life is focused on concern with the affairs of the community and nation.  All our time and attention must not be focused only on private concerns.  We have a responsibility to devote time to the public affairs of the community and nation.

Politics is the process by which people reach collective decisions that are generally regarded as binding and enforced as common policy.  Increasingly, this political process is becoming filled with misinformation, misdirection and some say outright lies, making it difficult for the average person to reach sound collective decisions.  Some elected officials in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate have even said that they will “not compromise” meaning it’s their way or no way, cutting off reasoned discussion of issues, making it difficult to reach a collective decisions.

Government is often described as the formal institutions and processes of a politically organized society with authority to make, enforce, and interpret law, and other binding rules about matters of common interest and concern, such as society’s order, security, and prosperity.  The term government also refers to the group of people, acting in formal political institutions at national, state, and local levels, who exercise decision-making power or enforce laws and regulations.  Some parts of government, such as Congress, state legislatures, and city councils make laws; other parts, including federal, state and local agencies such as health authorities and police, enforce laws; and still others, such as federal and state courts, interpret laws, and other rules.

Civil society refers to voluntary non-governmental political, social, and economic activity.  Among the many non-governmental actors who make up civil society are groups such as parent-teacher and professional associations, multi-national corporations and small businesses, labor unions, public charities, religious organizations, and youth groups.  The governmental and non-governmental activities sometimes overlap.  One of the responsibilities of citizens is to distinguish the appropriate and inappropriate influence of one upon the other.

Now is always the time to reflect on how we’ve doing.  Could we allot more time in our day, perhaps 15, 30 or more minutes, to expand and deepen our knowledge and understanding of civic life, politics and government?   I’ve found it’s worth the attention.  My life has greatly increased in joy, amusement and happiness.  I own it, feel it, live it and love it!

Join me on this continuous journey.  Civics 1B is coming soon!

–the Educating Gossip

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