Jonathan Zaff, Vice President for Research and Policy Development, America’s Promise Alliance
Daniel Hart, Professor of Childhood Studies and Psychology, Director of the Center for Childhood and Family Studies, Rutgers University
Peter Levine, Research Director of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, Director of The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University
James Youniss, Wilma R. & James R. Curtin Professor of Psychology, The Catholic University of America
Meira Levinson, Assistant Professor of Education, Harvard University
#1. JON ZAFF:
From a few recent conversations, experiences and articles read, I've been left at somewhat of a loss for conceptualizing civic identity. I know we've all written something about the topic but when it comes to a measurement model (or a full operationalization, for that matter), the literature appears thin. This also plays into the important point that you, Jim and Dan, have made about moving from a purely cognitive model of civic development to a developmental model. Much that has been written about civic identity has been overly conflated with moral identity in more of a Kohlbergian vein.
By delineating the components of a civic identity through a developmental lens, the civic engagement field could at least be engaged in a thoughtful discussion about what we mean by an individual's potential to engage in effective civic actions as well as a commitment to civic engagement, however broadly defined (consistent with the discussion at Spencer). I do not mean to say that a goal would be to then develop methods for social engineering an outcome of millions of youth with a strong civic identity. Rather, I could imagine that there are components of a civic identity model that would be relevant to some youth, in some contexts, at specific times in their development; more about encouraging youth to be effective agents of change than necessarily developing a full-blown civic identity (I, for one, could probably not be accused of having a full-blown civic identity!). In fact, I could imagine an interesting paper discussing the 'why' behind civic identity development (e.g., to sustain/strengthen a robust democracy; to prepare youth/adults to be energized by 'meaningful' circumstances/events; to instigate civic actions either in response to an event or proactive? to participate in a set of socially normed civic actions such as voting? others?).
To get my mind working and to put something down on paper, I came up with a "CARE" model of civic identity - commitment to civic action, agency (including collective agency), responsibility, and emotional connection (to a community, to a set of individuals/group, to the country/the world, and/or to a given issue). I'm sure that this isn't the 'right' framework but I was hoping to start a conversation about what a model might look like. My guess is that the 4-H PYD Study (by Richard Lerner), Monitoring the Future and possibly the Needham DDB Study would have a good mix of measures that would allow us to test a resulting model.
Of course, I realize that you might have little interest in engaging in such a discussion. But, in the hope that you would be interested in continuing this discussion (in a less rambling way than I have begun), I welcome your thoughts.