Is organizing democratic?
colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Mon Jan 16 22:20:25 CST 2006
[ed: some more thoughts from Richard.]
From: Richard Layman <rlaymandc at yahoo.com>
In college, I was a student activist, or what passed for one in the late
1970s and early 1980s. Among other things, I was involved in curriculum
and course evaluation issues. And I paid attention to civic engagement
issues and items (e.g., I found handbooks by the old Citizen Involvement
Training Project at the college bookstore) in the context of my activities.
One of my lines from that time is that "you can't expect someone to
graduate from college, after being educated for 13-17 years
in relatively authoritarian settings, and upon graduation, expect them
to become active, free thinking, participating members of society."
(Yes, by then I had read _Schooling in Capitalist America_ and _The
Night is Dark and I am far from home_...)
(Note: I will be forever grateful to Frances Wyers Weber, a professor of
Spanish then at the University of Michigan, for teaching a freshman
seminar about Latin America--which I took because I knew nothing about
Latin America and it sounded interesting. This course, my first semester
in college, started me on the path of "learning how to think for myself." )
So when I talk about re-conceptualizing the planning profession towards
one of civic engagement and enabling, it is within the rubric and
principles of participatory democracy and citizenshipm more generally.
Granted, people don't seem to be as much interested in this as they are
in how their region's (insert yours here) professional football team
fares in the playoffs.
But because my concerns revolve around the structure and system of
citizen participation and power although within the context of land use
specifically (cf. _Urban Fortunes: A Political Economy of Place_ by
Logan and Molotch, and see Molotch's original paper here:
http://nw-ar.com/face/molotch.html ), "informal planning efforts" that
engage citizens aren't what interest me.
What does interest me are two things: (1) citizen participation and
democracy issues generally (e.g., _Deepening Democracy_ or _Empowered
Participation_, the first co-authored by Wright and Fung, the latter by
Fung, see www.archonfung.net <http://www.archonfung.net>) but in the
context of what I prefer to call "sustainable land use and resource
planning;" and (2) developing the meta-learning and techniques so that
citizens can be deliberative, informed, and engaged, and aware enough of
the process techniques so that they can apply these methods to other
settings and situations (too often I find that citizens are not so
equipped). (And note to RS, while I haven't yet picked up and read your
new textbook, _*Research Methods for Community Change : A Project-Based
Approach*, I think these are the kinds of methods that people need to
learn. It is on my list of books to read.)
Of course, this has been influenced substantively from my earlier
experiences and then the blessing-curse of coming to DC and having my
first job at an advocacy group with Nader-lineage.
So, it is quite interesting that a couple days ago I happened across a
textbook that teaches English as a Second Language, _Communicating
Effectively in English_ (1992), by Patricia A. Porter and Margaret
Grant, then of SF State University.
This textbook looks like a basic text in citizenship-involvement--it
teaches communications skills through participation in civil society.
It's really quite interesting and amazing and worth your looking up.
The units are:
1. Understanding your audience and being understood
2. Getting Information: Interviews and Conferences
3. Providing Information: Instructions and Demonstrations
4. Providing Information: Group Discussions and Presentations
5. Proposing Changes: Solving a Problem
6. Persuading Others: Taking a Position.
>From the preface: "In the first three units, students work with
information that is known to them or learned through interviews. In the
last three units, students must work with information from more
challenging outside sources, such as articles and reference materials in
the library. The first four units focus on informative presentations,
while the last two include expanded guidelines and practice in
Now if we could only get native speakers of "American" to learn this
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