Wonderful insights, Meira! I too am glad that Peter has brought our conversations together.
I have to run out in a minute, but wanted to pick up on one line of thinking. In conceptualizing civic identity (and possibly to measure it or 'its'), I would agree with a previous post (I think by Jim, but might have been Dan) to take value judgments out of the equation. For instance, Karl Rove is very civically engaged (and most likely has a strong civic identity), but I don't necessarily agree with his so-called civic actions. Or, a so-called 'angry activist' (a term that Lonnie Sherrod supposedly used during a presentation he made during SRCD) might be considered by some to be engaging in civic acts that are incongruous with civic engagement. I would want to avoid a post-modern construction of civic identity (to one of Jim's earlier points). Instead, could it be that there is an underlying psychological construct (more likely a multi-component construct) that is consistent across diverse civic activities? This does not mean that a single construct could possibly capture the richness of diverse contexts, opportunities, and experiences. Maybe we could think of a venn diagram in which the various circles represent the diversity of civic identities and actions (ranging from the Machiavellian activities of Karl Rove to the community organizing activities of the so-called 'angry activist' and everything in between). The overlapping center of the diagram could represent the core of civic identity. From a measurement perspective, there could a measure that taps into this shared aspect of civic identity and then other measures could be created that delve into various types of civic identity
One last point before I run out the door... although I appreciate the problem that Peter and Meira pose about the role of schools and government in promoting a civic identity, could one agree with your contention that schools and government should not be in this business, but should provide civic education and civic opportunities? In the same way that schools and the government should stay away from encouraging political ideologies? Not as coherent of a thought as I have in my head, but now I really have to leave!