Course Description

What is civic engagement? Why do some heed its call, while others shrug their shoulders and change the subject? How do youth who are involved in their communities evaluate their contributions? How do adults view their efforts? What results can programs that seek to engage and empower youth show? How can researchers and evaluators measure these outcomes and their meanings for the youth, for adults, for their communities, and for society?

This course will explore questions such as these, starting from the premise that youth civic participation is not just important, but imperative in a democracy. We will examine current research and theory about youth civic engagement, and we will test the assumptions, conclusions, and implications of these pieces by relating them to a particular youth empowerment program, sponsored by the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford. In its current sites in Redwood City and West Oakland, Youth Engaged in Leadership and Learning (YELL) trains youth to research and reform their schools and their communities. Through weekly service to this program, you will come to learn from the youth about the issues they face and about how they see themselves in relation to these concerns. The perspectives of these middle and high school students will lie at the heart of this course.

During the quarter, you will also have the opportunity to hear from adult researchers and practitioners about the challenges they face, the lessons they are learning, and the contributions they are making. Finally, you will also be encouraged to assess your own suppositions and convictions about youth, about community, and about civic engagement and service. In essence, you will serve as your own case study as well.
For more information about YELL or the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities, please refer to the website

Course Eligibility

This course is open to all undergraduates and SUSE MA students, but it will be capped at eight. Interested students should submit an application via email to Jerusha and Milbrey prior to the second scheduled class.

Course Requirements and Expectations

* 3 hours per week of service to YELL (25%)
Based on the interests and skills you articulate in your application, the YELL participants will match you with a particular work team. While you will be expected to help your assigned team to prepare its product, you will also be encouraged to find additional ways to contribute to the learning of this community, to support the experiences of the participants, and to serve the program. This aspect of the course may well be the most rewarding and the most fun.

* Class attendance and engagement (20%)
Class attendance is mandatory. Regular participation in class is not required; however, at a bare minimum, we will expect you to have read the assigned readings (usually 50-75 pages a week), to listen respectfully to those speaking, and to appear attentive. We will encourage you to pose questions, to make connections across your experiences, and to share insights and critical interpretations of the readings, as we believe these are the keys to a rich learning experience. When readings for the week exceed 75 pages, we will divide the readings amongst you, using the jig-saw technique.

* Memos (20%)
These short memos will allow you to integrate the course readings with your service experience, and they may help you prepare for class discussion. They need not exceed a page in length. Often, we will prompt you with a directing question. In organization and in style, the memos should be more formal than traditional journal entries, but they should include some conscious analysis of self: your lenses, sensibilities, and sense-making. the first five weeks of the course, you will be asked to complete four memos. In the seventh week of the course, you will have the chance to revise one of these based on the feedback you have received.

* Final presentation (15%)
Throughout the first half of the quarter, the memos will serve to track the ways in which your understandings deepen, as beliefs and assumptions are confirmed or reassessed, and as you consider how research and theory illuminate or obfuscate Jived experience. The presentation you give on our last day of class can be seen as an extension of these memos. You will be expected to draw on personal experiences as you reflect on what you have learned over the past nine weeks from the YELL youth and staff, about yourself, and about civic engagement. You may also wish to discuss any related experiences with service, politics, or community involvement that you had prior to this course. Your audience for this presentation will consist of the YELL youth and staff. Although power point is not necessary, your five-seven minute presentation should be engaging, clear, and well organized. If you wish to present with a partner, you may do so. In this case, your presentation should last 10 minutes. There will be an opportunity to practice presenting and fielding questions in class before the YELL youth arrive on campus.

* Final paper (20%)
Over the course of the quarter, it will become clear to you that the field of youth civic engagement is riddled with problems. Within the research literature, there are problems of conceptualization and of measurement. Both in schools and in the community, effective practice is hampered by social, political, and financial constraints. For your final paper, you will choose one problem that you believe has significant implications for either future scholarship or future policy and practice. Your paper should trace the roots of this problem, discuss its costs, and formulate research-based recommendations for change. These papers should be approximately 10 pages in length, double-spaced, 12 point font. A proposal for the paper will be due in class on May 3. Drafts will be due May 24 in class, and final papers will be due on June 6 by 5:00 p.m.

Course Outline

I. Introduction: Pathways to Civic Engagement

Week 1: Introduction

Week 2: Conceptions and pathways
Assignments due: Memo on civic engagement conceptualizations. Course application

  • Putnam, R. (2000). Thinking about social change in’ America. In Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster. 15-28.
  • Coles, R. (1993). Kinds of service. 1n The Call afService. New York: Houghton Mifflin. 13-67.
  • Camino, L., & Zeldin, S. (2002). From periphery to center: Pathways for youth civic engagement in the day-to-day life of communities. Applied Developmental Science, 6, 213-220.
  • Keeter, S., Zukin, C., Andolina, M., & Jenkins, K. (2002). The civic and political health of the nation: a generational portrait. Report for the Center for Information and Research on Civic Engagement (CIRCLE).

Week 3: Obstacles and challenges
Assignment due: Memo on obstacles

  • Roach, C., Yu, H.C., & Lewis-Charp, H. (2001). Race, poverty, and youth development. Poverty and Race, 10, 3-6.
  • Checkoway, B., et al. (2003). Young people as competent citizens. Community Development Journal, 38,298-309.
  • C Hart, D., & Atkins, R. (2002). Civic competence in Urban Youth. Applied Developmental Science, 6,227-236.
  • Anyon, Y., & Naughton, S. (2003). Youth empowerment: The contributions and challenges 0/ youth-led research in a high-poverty, urban community. Stanford, CA: John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities.
  • YELL Reports: what_works/work _ of jgc youth.html

II. The Anatomy of Youth Empowerment

Week 4: Civic interest and motivation
Assignment due: Memo on interest and motivation

  • Miller, F. (1992). The personal and the political in reasoning and action. In H. Haste & J, Torney-Purta (Eds.), The development of political understanding: A new perspective. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 55-63.
  • Hart, D., Yates, M, Fegley, S., & Wilson, G. (1995). Moral commitment in inner-city adolescents. In M. Killen & D. Hart (Eds.) Morality in every-day life. New York:
  • Cambidge University Press. 3 I 7-339.
  • Lake Snell Perry & Associates and The Tarrance Group, Inc, (2002). Short term impacts, long term opportunities: The political and civic engagement of young adults in America. Report for the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) and the Center for Democracy and Citizenship and the Partnership for Trust in Government.
  • Flanagan, C., Bowes, J., Jonsson, B., Csapo, B., &. Sheblanova, E. (1998). Ties that bind: Correlates of adolescents’ civic commitments in seven countries. Journal of Social Issues, 54, 457-475.
  • Schondel, C & Boehm, K. (2000). Motivational needs of adolescent volunteers. Adolescence, 35.

Week 5: Civic knowledge and skills
Assignment due: Memo on knowledge and skills

  • Baldi, S. (2001). What democracy means to ninth-graders: U.S. results
  • from the international EAS civic education study. National Center for Education Statistics. Chapters 1& 2.
  • Kirlin, M. (June 2003). The role of civic skills in/ostering civic engagement. Report for the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).
  • Gutmann, A. (1999). Democratic education. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 101-107.
  • James, T. (Spring, 2003). Democratizing knowledge: The role of research and evaluation in youth organizing. CYD. 4,33-39.
  • Flanagan, c., & Faison, N. (2001). Youth civic development: Implications of research for social policy and programs. Social Policy Report, XV, 3-14.

Week 6: Civic and political efficacy
Assignment due: 1 page proposal for term paper

  • Kahne, J. & Westheimer, 1. (2002). The limits of efficacy: Educating citizens for democratic action. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association. Boston, MA. August 29-September 1,2002.
  • Kaba, M. (200 I). ‘They listen to me … but they don’t act on it’: Contradictory consciousness and student participation in decision-making. High School Journal, 84,21-35.
  • O’Donoghue, J. & Kirshner, B. (2003). Urban youth’s civic development in community-based youth organizations. Paper presented at the International conference on civic education, New Orleans, LA, November 16-18,2003.
  • Steinberger, PJ. (1981). Social context and political efficacy. Sociology and Social Research. 65, 129-141.

Week 7: Leadership
Assignment due: Revision of one of your memos

  • Gibson, C. (200 I, November). from inspiration to participation: A review of perspectives on youth civic engagement. New York: Carnegie Corporation.
  • Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. (1998). Student Leadersbip Practices Inventory. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • O’Brien, J. & Kohlmeier, J. (2003). “Leadership: Part of the civic mission of the schools?” The Social Studies. 94(4) 161-166.
  • Roach, A., Wyman, L., Brookes, H., Chaves, C., Health, S.B., Valdes, G. (1999).
  • Leadership giftedness: Models revisited. Gifted Child Quarterly 43, I, 13-24.

III. School, State, and National Policies for Youth Civic Engagement

Week 8: Civic education in school

  • Meier, D. (September, 2003). So what does it take to build a school for democracy? Phi Delta Kappan, 15-21.
  • Mosher, R., Kenny, R., Garrod, A., & Sadowsky, E. (1994). Democracy in a New Hampshire school: Applied citizenship education. In Preparing for citizenship: Teaching youth to live democratically. Westport, CT: Praeger, 151-163.
  • Sawyer, C. (1993). Democratic practices at the elementary school level: Three portraits. In Berman, S., & La Farge, P. (Eds.) Promising practices in teaching social responsibility. New York: State University of New York Press, 87-103.
  • Kreisberg, S. (1993). Educating for democracy and community: Toward the transformation of power in our schools. In Berman, S., & La Farge, P. (Eds.) Promising practices in teaching social responsibility. new York: State University of New York Press, 218-235.
  • Kahne, J., & Westheimer, J. (1999). In the service of what? The politics of service-learning. In J. Claus & C. Ogden (Eds.) Service learning for youth empowerment and social change. New York: Peter Lang.
  • Boyte, H. (1991). Community service and civic education. Phi Delta Kappan, 72. 765-767.

Week 9: Students and school reform
Assignment due: Draft of final paper

  • SooHoo, S. (Summer 1993). Students as partners in research and restructuring in schools. The Educational Forum, 57,386-393.
  • Crane, B. (2001). Revolutionising school-based research. Forum, 43,54-55.
  • Harding, C. (2001). Students as researchers is as important as the national curriculum. Forum, 43,56-57.
  • Mitra, D. (2001). Opening the floodgates: Giving students a voice in school reform. Forum, 43,91-94.
  • Silva, E. (2001). Squeaky wheels and flat tires: A case study of students as reform participants. Forum, 43,95-99.
  • Fielding, M. (2001). Beyond the rhetoric of student voice: New departures or new constraints in the transformation of 21st century schooling? Forum, 43, 100-109.
  • Fletcher, A. (2003). Meaningful student involvement: Guide to inclusive school change. Olympia, WA: The Freechild Project.
  • Listening:
  • http://www.wrni.orglfocusrhodeisland/archives/022704.shtmI
  • _ krystleexitexam.shtm


Week 10:

Assignment due: Prepared presentation


  • Sirianni, C. (Fall, 2002). Volunteering then and now: Civic innovation and public policy for democracy. The Brookings Review, 20,42-45.
  • O’Donoghue, J., Kirshner, E., & McLaughlin, M. (Eds.) (Winter 2002). Youth evaluating programs for youth: Stories of Youth IMPACT. New Directions for Youth Development, 96,101.118.
  • Youniss, J., Vales, S., Christmas-Best, V., Diversi, M., McLaughlin, M., & Silbereisen, R.
  • (2002). Youth civic engagement in the twenty-first century. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 12,121·158.
  • Haid, P., Marques, E.C., & Brown, J. (1999). Re-focusing the lens: Assessing the challenge of youth involvement in public policy. Ontano, Canada: The Ontario Secondary School Students’ Association & The Institute on Governance.
  • Final papers due June 6, 5:00 p.m.