Experience with Deliberation in College Translates to Sustained Political Engagement

In the 2007 Kettering Foundation Press book Speaking of Politics: Preparing College Students for Democratic Citizenship through Deliberative Dialogue, authors Katy J. Harriger and Jill J. McMillan follow the “Democracy Fellows,” a group of 30 college students, during their 4 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.

According to a recent follow-up study, students who use deliberation to enhance civic engagement efforts in college are still feeling the effects 10 years after the fact. The study and its outcomes are explored at length in a new article called “The Making of Future Citizens” in the fall 2016 installment of Wake Forest Magazine.

From the article:

“Among the findings, the longitudinal study shows that a decade after graduating, compared with a control group not exposed to the principles, the Democracy Fellows expressed a multilayered view of citizenship that emphasizes participation and being informed, more willingness to talk with those who don’t share their beliefs and a view that they can have a say in what government does. They also adapted the principles of deliberation for use in organizations in their own lives — from medicine, religion, education and the workplace.

David Mathews, president and CEO of the Kettering Foundation, a nonpartisan research foundation that focuses on what it takes to make democracy work, lauded the findings of the research. . . . ‘In today’s political environment I don’t think you have to spend much effort to make the case that we need a more deliberative citizenry that’s capable of making sound decisions,’ Mathews said. ‘And the significance of the Wake Forest project is that it shows exactly how you can develop a deliberative citizenry by what’s done in college and that what’s done in college has lasting effects.’”

You can read the full article at Wake Forest Magazine.