SOLUTION: UMKC Political Participation in Almost Adulthood and Civic Duty Discussion

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Politics in Almost Adulthood
“Civic engagement and the transition to Adulthood” written by Constance Flanagan and
Peter Levin aims to look at the trends and patterns of young people in regards to their
political and civic engagement. Young people are less likely to be engaged in
comparison to their older counterparts. This pattern of change encouraged the writers to
figure out what the change was and why younger voters moving into adulthood chose
not to participate. Although this news is discouraging, “Trends in voting provide evidence
that at least some of the change is a matter of delay, not a permanent generational decline.
During any era, young adults are less likely than their elders to vote.” (Flagan and Levine
161) depicts how it may not be completely permanent but these attitudes may change as
they grow older. “As the boomers settled into adult roles in their thirties and forties,
however, patterns of civic engagement became more predictable”… (Flagan and Logan 163)
this portrays change that may occur as millennials and younger generations become more
established in their adulthood.
This change is concerning because the question is why? Do younger voters feel as though
there would be no change? Are they fed up with politics and how things are run? This sort
of numbness or indifference towards the politics because of how polar it is will create more
issues and less discussion of public discourse. I believe that initiatives to vote and
encourage young people will ensure that these patterns will not continue in the future.
Although politics have grown more and more polar throughout the past couple of decades,
it is incredibly concerning that this has created more divide than have people want to make
Boundaries in Politicizing the Personal
Theresa Man Ling Lee questions the effectiveness of politicizing aspects of personal life
“in marriage, in the kitchen, the bedroom, the nursery, and at work” in her article,
“Rethinking the Personal and the Political” (163). She argues that complete politicization
could result in a dystopia similar to George Orwell’s 1984 but also highlights the
importance of discussing women’s issues through a personal lens as this provides the
best insight to the experiences of “individuals who have been denied dignity and
agency” (Lee 176). The divide between personal and public affairs is scrutinized in this
context as it can be argued either way. By not politicizing the personal, are we actually
allowing societal expectations to have a greater impact over gender roles at home and
in the workplace by accepting these standards? On the other hand, will bringing these
issues into focus only perpetuate them? I find myself agreeing with Lee that
“empowerment through the politicization of one’s life can only be achieved . . . [through]
democracy” (176). However, this is also a difficult goal considering the lack of women in
politics. By politicizing gender expectations and issues that are largely experienced by
women, how can we expect change to be made if these topics are being discussed and
voted on by groups consisting mainly of men? It becomes extremely difficult to draw a
line as some topics that are considered personal often face backlash when they’re
politicized, such as access to healthcare. Although these issues are just as valid as
others, criticisms can lead to hindrances in the overall movement. Public perceptions of
politicizing the personal can vary wildly, especially depending on the group to which the
information is being presented. The boundaries the feminist movement draws in
politicizing the personal are extremely important in deciding the overall progress that
can be made. Many personal experiences simply must be discussed in a political
manner as gender inequality presents itself in many ways, including through gender
issues in personal life. Just as women had to fight for voting rights, many current gender
issues must be addressed politically for changes to be made.
Civic Duty Today
When we talk about Civic Duty we assume with all the social media presence and
awareness we have today we would be more active in our community, but that isn’t
always the case. In Lee’s “Civic Engagement and the Transition to Adulthood” he
discusses how there is a delay in civic duties, “Young adults today are less likely than
their counterparts in the 1970s were to exhibit nine out of ten important characteristics
of citizenship” (Lee, 161). The main cause of this could be a delay in role changes such
as “stable jobs, marriage, and family formation” (Lee, 162). It could also be effected by
how much school they have had and their documentation status in the US. Although in
some cases, undocumented children’s families have actually shown more civic duty
than those that are documented with “23 percent of immigrant youth and 18 percent of
children of immigrant parents reported that they had protested in the past twelve
months.” (Lee, 164). Even though most are not able to apply for a drivers license or
apply for some jobs, they show more civic duty than others. Those who continue school
are more likely to attend “weekly religious services, where they could be recruited for
civic and political activities and consequently develop civic and organizational skills.”
(Lee, 165). So it is possible school could be helping those feel more of a need to help
out. There have been some attempts to help undocumented citizens and those from
lower-income communities feel more involved. The DREAM (Development, Relief and
Education for Alien Minors) Act helps “legalize qualified young immigrants who came to
the United States as children.” (Lee, 164) and can also grant in-state tuition to those
who qualify, they also have jobs that help translate to other immigrants such as for
tutoring and translators. AmeriCorps is also a widely popular program that helps those
in lower-income communities finish school and help for housing, they “provide service in
exchange for a modest living stipend (enough to cover living expenses for most
participants) and an educational award.” (Lee, 172). Although these issues have come
to light, women’s political views have remained the same and it has yet to bring
awareness as they are continuously viewed as the suppressed. Prisoners (felons) also
are also faced with restrictions such as not being able to “vote in forty-eight states, to
hold public office in forty states, and to serve on juries in forty seven states.” (Lee, 167).
They also face issues with high-drop out rates and not feeling “important”.
I think if we stopped putting restrictions on the majority of people in the US we would
see a major change in contribution because the main issue is if people feel left out they
are less likely to contribute all together.
Using Resources for Change
“Civic Engagement and the Transition to Adulthood” by Constance Flanagan and Peter
Levine provides an insight into the participation of young adults and people coming of
voting age. The patterns of young adults have changed through the decades with
increased civic engagement in some areas, and a decrease in others. For example,
young people are more likely to volunteer than older people (Flanagan, 162); but are
also less likely to read the newspaper (Flanagan, 163). Overall, the participation of
young Americans is vital to democracy because young people provide valuable input for
social issues and legislation that could be beneficial to all; as Flanagan summarizes,
“Civic engagement of young adults is important both for the functioning of a democratic
society and for individual development” (Flanagan, 173).
It’s important to note that there are issues that still block young adults from civic
engagement. “Inequalities in political participation among young Americans are rooted
in the differing education and political involvement of their parents” (Flanagan, 165).
Young adults may have increased difficulty finding opportunities to participate in civic
action based on their background. Institutions can promote civic engagement, such as
unions or faith organizations, but none provide as much opportunity as higher
education. “Higher education is increasingly committed to a civic mission. One form that
commitment takes is organized volunteering, already mentioned above, but it also
includes community-based research, durable partnerships between colleges or
university and nearby community organizations, political discussion and debate on
campus, courses that impart civic skills, student-produced news media, internships, and
study-abroad opportunities, and events and exhibitions meant to serve communities”
(Flanagan, 169). As college students, we have the opportunity and privilege to be active
members of our community, become engaged and informed of political and social
issues, and have the resources to promote change. It’s our job to ensure that we take
advantage of the opportunities around us and promote change that can benefit those
that may have fewer resources or opportunities to be as active in the community.
Princeton University
Civic Engagement and the Transition to Adulthood
Author(s): Constance Flanagan and Peter Levine
Source: The Future of Children, Vol. 20, No. 1, Transition to Adulthood (SPRING 2010), pp.
Published by: Princeton University
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Civic Engagement and the Transition
to Adulthood
Constance Flanagan and Peter Levine
Constance Flanagan and Peter Levine survey research on civic engagement among U.S. ado
lescents and young adults. Civic engagement, they say, is important both for the functioning of
democracies and for the growth and maturation it encourages in young adults, but opportuni
ties for civic engagement are not evenly distributed by social class or race and ethnicity.
Todays young adults, note the authors, are less likely than those in earlier generations to exhibit
many important characteristics of citizenship, raising the question of whether these differences
represent a decline or simply a delay in traditional adult patterns of civic engagement. Flanagan
and Levine also briefly discuss the civic and political lives of immigrant youth in the United
States, noting that because these youth make up a significant share of the current generation of
young adults, their civic engagement is an important barometer of the future of democracy.
The authors next survey differences in civic participation for youth from different social, racial,
and ethnic backgrounds. They explore two sets of factors that contribute to a lower rate of civic
engagement among low-income and minority young adults. The first is cumulative disadvan
tage?unequal opportunities and influences before adulthood, especially parental education.
The second is different institutional opportunities for civic engagement among college and non
college youth during the young-adult years. Flanagan and Levine survey various settings where
young adults spend time?schools and colleges, community organizations, faith-based institu
tions, community organizing and activism projects, and military and other voluntary service
programs?and examine the opportunities for civic engagement that each affords.
As the transition to adulthood has lengthened, say the authors, colleges have become perhaps
the central institution for civic incorporation of younger generations. But no comparable
institution exists for young adults who do not attend college. Opportunities for sustained civic
engagement by year-long programs such as City Year could provide an alternative opportunity
for civic engagement for young adults from disadvantaged families, allowing them to stay
connected to mainstream opportunities and to adults who could mentor and guide their way.
www. futureofchildren. org
Constance Flanagan is a professor of youth civic development in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Pennsylvania State University.
Peter Levine is the director of CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) at the Tisch College
of Citizenship and Public Service, Tufts University.
VOL. 20 / NO. 1 / SPRING 2010 159
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Constance Flanagan and Peter Levine
The eivie engagement of young
adults?whether in the form
of joining community groups,
pursuit of individual gain. Whether through
voting, working in community-based organi
zations to address local problems, or volun
volunteering to help neighbors,
teering time or money to a social cause, civic
or leading grassroots efforts to
activities raise issues involving connection to
gain civil rights?is important to the health
others, public goods and values, and the col
and performance of democracy. It is also
lective nature of solving problems. Engaging
important for personal growth and identity
with fellow members of a community-based
formation during the transition to adulthood.
group also helps youth form social networks,
build social capital, and connect to educa
When younger Americans have a voice in
tional and occupational opportunities.
community affairs, they can contribute their
insights to public debates and their ener
gies to addressing public problems. Issues
Civic Engagement and the
Changing Transition to Adulthood
that centrally involve adolescents and young
Like other markers of adulthood such as
adults?such as the high-school dropout
finishing school and starting a family, civic
crisis, the costs of higher education, or youth
engagement is a key part of the transition
between adolescence and mature adulthood.
violence?especially benefit from youth
input. Young adults who identify with, have
a stake in, and want to contribute to their
During childhood and adolescence people
become aware of political institutions, social
communities can help to stabilize democratic
issues, and larger communities; learn facts
societies by directing their discontent into
and concepts related to politics; and begin to
constructive channels. They can also be a
practice active citizenship by volunteering,
force for political change, by bringing new
belonging to groups, consuming news media,
perspectives on political issues and offering
fresh solutions.
and discussing issues. The opportunities and
choices of these years shape interests and
pathways.1 During late adolescence and young
adulthood, people chart a course for their
During late adolescence and
future and “take stock” of the values they live
by and the kind of world they want to be part
young adulthood, people chart
of. Moral and political issues become salient
a course for their future and
perspectives, working with people from
“take stock” of the values they
live by and the kind of world
they want to be part of
concerns. Exploring alternative political
different social backgrounds, and wrestling
with a range of perspectives on social issues
provide opportunities to reflect on one s own
views and decide where one stands.
According to life-cycle theories, stable pat
terns of civic engagement take hold once
individuals have settled into adult roles, such
The personal and psychological benefits of
civic engagement for young adults include
as steady jobs, marriage, and parenting, that
fulfillment of the human need to belong and
build up their stake in community affairs.
to feel that life has a purpose beyond the
These adult roles give a predictable structure
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Civic Engagement and the Transition to Adulthood
to life that makes regular engagement in
programs such as AmeriCorps?and examine
community affairs more likely and increases
the probability of being recruited into civic
the opportunities for civic engagement that
each affords. We conclude with a discussion
affairs.2 By contrast, the lives of young adults
of policy directions.
are unsettled and in flux as they move into
or work. Although they are more likely to
Decline or Delay? Trends in Young
Adults’ Civic Engagement
take part in civic life when they are in such
Young adults today are less likely than their
settings, their involvement tends to be epi
counterparts in the 1970s were to exhibit
sodic. Nonetheless, opportunities to explore
nine out of ten important characteristics of
civic issues and to wrangle with others who
citizenship: belonging to at least one group,
and out of institutional settings such as school
have different perspectives help young adults
attending religious services at least monthly,
to crystallize their values and political stands.
belonging to a union, reading newspapers at
Political identities formed in the early-adult
least once a week, voting, being contacted
years are highly predictive of the positions
individuals will hold in middle and even late
project, attending club meetings, and believ
adulthood. Political views as well as levels
and forms of engagement will vary within
by a political party, working on a community
ing that people are trustworthy.3 Only in a
tenth form of citizenship?volunteering?are
every generation, but the politics of a genera
they more likely to participate, probably as
tion takes shape in the context of the political
a result of deliberate efforts over the past
climate, issues, and range of tenable solutions
circulating when a cohort comes of age.
In this article, we summarize research
several decades by schools, colleges, and com
munity groups to encourage volunteering. For
several of these ten types of engagement?
notably voting?rates have risen in the 2000s
findings on civic engagement in late adoles
compared with the 1990s, but not enough to
cence and early adulthood and on how
compensate for thirty years of decline.
patterns of engagement today may differ from
those in earlier generations. As the transition
These changes invite us to ask whether the
to adulthood lengthens, is it taking longer for
nation s younger generations have perma
persistent patterns of civic engagement to
nently weaker connections to civic life than
take hold? We discuss how civic participation
varies for youth from different social, racial,
their predecessors or whether the lengthen
ing transition to adulthood means that young
and ethnic backgrounds and for new immi
people today take longer to begin to forge
grants. In particular, we assess two sets of
those connections (much as they take longer
to get married or finish their education).
factors that may contribute to a civic divide.
The first is cumulative disadvantage (unequal
opportunities and influences before adult
Trends in voting provide evidence that at least
hood); the second is differing institutional
some of the change i …
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