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Speaking of Politics: Preparing College Students for Democratic Citizenship through Deliberative Dialogue

This 2007 book from the Kettering Foundation follows the ‘Democracy Fellows’ – a group of 30 college students during their four years at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina – to discover whether their experiences in learning and practicing deliberation might counteract the alienation from public life that has overtaken so many young Americans today. Their research design included classroom learning and practical experiences in organizing and conducting deliberative forums both on campus and in the Winston-Salem community. Observations gleaned from interviews, focus groups, and surveys of a comparison group and the larger student population indicate that, upon graduation, the Democracy Fellows had the skills and the interests needed to become more involved and responsible citizens than their fellow students.

In Speaking of Politics, authors Katy J. Harriger and Jill J. McMillan offer some prescriptions for how deliberative practices might be adopted at other institutions of higher education as at least one important antidote to political disaffection among young people.

When the Democracy Fellows left Wake Forest, they were:

  • more involved in traditional political venues
  • more attuned to the responsibilities of citizenship• more analytical and critical of political processes
  • more confident in their ability to make a difference
  • more inclined to speak and think communally
  • more imaginative in recognizing possibilities for deliberation and its broader application

Furthermore, Harriger and McMillan found that even limited exposure to deliberation delivers at least trace amounts of the same benefits that accrued to the Democracy Fellows.

About the Authors

Katy J. Harriger is a professor of political science at Wake Forest University, where she teaches courses on American politics, courts, democracy, and citizenship. Harriger is the editor of Separation of Powers: Commentary and Documents and the author of The Special Prosecutor in American Politics (2nd ed. revised), and Independent Justice: The Federal Special Prosecutor in American Politics, as well as a number of articles in journals and law reviews. At Wake Forest, Harriger has received the Reid Doyle Prize for Excellence in Teaching, the John Reinhardt Distinguished Teaching Award, and the Schoonmaker Award for Community Service. She can be reached at harriger@wfu.edu.

Jill J. McMillan is professor emerita of communication at Wake Forest University. Her teaching and research has focused on numerous aspects of communication and rhetoric in and around organizations and institutions: corporate identity, the strategies and impact of an organization’s public messages, communicative dysfunction among organizational members and groups, organizational democracy and decision making, and pedagogy in higher education. Her work has appeared in venues such as the Journal of Higher Education, Presidential Studies Quarterly, Quarterly Journal of Speech, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, and Management Communication Quarterly. She can be reached at mcmillj@wfu.edu.

Resource Link: http://kettering.org/publications/speaking-of-politics-preparing-college-students/

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