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Great Pre-Conference Sessions @ Frontiers of Democracy

Tufts-logoWe recently mentioned here on the blog that the pivotal Frontiers of Democracy conference is happening in Boston this June 25th – 27th, and the conference itself is reason enough to make the trip. But with the announcement of two pre-conference workshop, both headed by NCDD members, there’s even more reason to attend.

Both of these pre-conference sessions will happen on Thursday, June 25th from 1-4pm, so unfortunately, you have to choose one, but both promise to be excellent learning opportunities.

NCDD Supporting Member Cornell Woolridge, founder of CivicSolve, will be hosting a pre-conference session called “Civic Engagement & Disability Advocacy: The Peril & Promise of Bursting Bubbles.” Here’s how Cornell describes the workshop:

Once one of the most ignored and abused populations in the nation, the disability community received long overdue recognition and protections through the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. In the wake of the ADA, much of the disability advocacy community has created bubbles of protection and shared experience, but what happens when that bubble gets in the way of integration? What happens when the disability advocacy community shifts focus from services, self-advocacy and support groups to civic education and community development? CivicSolve and the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) have been working together for nearly two years to address these questions. This session will present the story of this partnership between CivicSolve & NACDD and explore how civic engagement can be a tool both for building community and building identity.

The other session will be co-led by NCDD Founding Member Nancy Thomas and NCDD Supporting Member Timothy Shaffer – co-leaders of the Democracy Imperative – and is titled “Political Learning and Engagement in Democracy 365.” Here’s how Nancy and Tim describe it:

According to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) at Tufts University, only 47% of college students voted in 2012. Voting can serve as a gauge of student willingness or capacity to engage in public life. For example, Harvard’s Institute of Politics 2015 survey found that only 21% of young people consider themselves “political engaged or active” and only 7% engaged in a government, political or issue related organization over the past year. Polls suggest that Americans view the political system as inefficient if not corrupt, distant if not elitist, and willfully disdainful of their opinions.

Citizen disengagement is exacerbated by the reality that colleges and universities, both public and private, often shy away from politics, controversial issues, and educating students for social activism or political engagement. We found some exceptions, however. Using NSLVE data to select campuses, researchers conducted case studies to examine how institutions foster campus climates that support student political learning and engagement in democracy. On these campuses, students are taught to analyze, communicate, and debate information. Social connections are so strong that “movements” happen almost spontaneously. Students feel a sense of shared responsibility for their campus, their peers and their learning. Curricular and co-curricular experiences capitalize on student diversity of identity, perspectives, and ideology. Free speech, academic freedom, and controversial issue discussions are robust and pervasive. These are not isolated “best practices” but deeply embedded practices and norms that have been intentionally cultivated by the institution over time. Political engagement is not just for political science majors and it is not just for an election season. Engagement in democracy is pervasive, habitual, and 365 days a year.

In this workshop, we will examine the NSLVE findings and then move to a learning exchange on how campuses can foster environments conducive to political learning and engagement in democracy for all students.

We highly recommend checking out both of these pre-conference workshops at the Frontiers conference! You can learn more about the conference here or go ahead and get registered by clicking here.

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Roshan Bliss
An inclusiveness trainer and group process facilitator, Roshan Bliss serves as NCDD's Youth Engagement Coordinator and Blog Curator. Combining his belief that decisions are better when everyone is involved with his passion for empowering young people, his work focuses on increasing the involvement of youth and students in public conversations.

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