Models for Increased Civic Participation and Understanding
American statesman Alfred E. Smith's dictum that the cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy can not be fairly tested if knowledge of democracy is diminishing and participation is falling.
Mounting evidence shows that Americans’ knowledge of their history, democratic principles, constitutional law and rights has declined along with participation in electoral processes. At the same time disdain for and mistrust of government, always part of America’s culture, continues and grows. Civics curricula are diminished in public schools; major media and means of communication are increasingly polarized; new technologies permit viral dissemination of opinion; and loosened regulations and redefinition of political spending allow hidden influence on elections and political discourse. Both enemies and friends question democracy’s ability to confront the challenges of economic globalization, international terrorism, and shifting alliances.
The Center for Community Democracy and Democratic Literacy examines and evaluates the work of community-based organizations to ascertain their success in expanding or capacity to expand democratic participation and to engage in community change efforts. In collaboration with the other centers and institutes of the university and of the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, the Center for Community Democracy concentrates on both policy and projects to implement, develop, demonstrate, and/or test models for increased civic participation and understanding.