Jumping into Civic Life: Stories of Public Work from Extension Professionals
When it comes to the task of making democracy work as it should in everyday ways and places, professionals who are employed by institutions of many kinds can be a problem. All too often, they use their technical knowledge and expertise in ways that dominate, disable, and sideline neighborhood and community members who aren’t employed as credentialed experts. Or they stay out of public work in the messy, contentious realm of civic life altogether because they see it as an inappropriate activity for professionals to engage in, they don’t know what to do, they aren’t welcome, or they are afraid of losing their jobs.
Through eight richly detailed oral histories, this book helps to open our imagination to the possibilities for professionals to make constructive contributions to the task of making democracy work as it should. The firsthand stories of public work in these oral histories are told by professionals from six different states who either chose or were invited to jump into civic life as active participants. They help us see what it means and takes to be a “citizen professional” who respects and supports the capacities, intelligence, expertise, and agency of others.
The book’s editors are Scott J. Peters, professor in the Department of Development Sociology at Cornell University; Theodore R. Alter, professor of agricultural, environmental, and regional economics and codirector of the Center for Economic and Community Development at Penn State; and Timothy J. Shaffer, assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies and the assistant director of the Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy at Kansas State University.