Public Achievement identifies Core Concepts that are fundamental to engaging students in learning how to participate in public work and active citizenship.
There are three related meanings to the concept "public" that are relevant to Public Achievement: as a group of people, a kind of space, and a common interest. Creating a project that is "public" is one of the important steps in the Public Achievement process.
A closely related concept, Public Work represents the organizing concept of PA, defined as the work of ordinary citizens, who together, solve public problems and create things of lasting importance in our community, nation, or world. Consider the following article as a prime example of the concepts of public and public work. Help your students identify the people, space, and common interest that represent public work. Farm Stands Bring Produce to Public Housing Developments
Politics is the everyday processes of negotiating situations involving power relations and making public decisions (i.e. bargaining, making decisions, and thinking strategically). The late Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O'Neil (D-Mass.) once said "All politics is local." We would add that politics are personal. There is no better way to explore politics than to examine a person who devotes his or her life to public service. Consider the life of Senator Robert Byrd. A lesson plan entitled Farewell, Robert Byrd will introduce students to the long career of a federal legislator who carried a copy of the U.S. Constitution with him at all times and who died in July 2010.
Citizenship is the on-going contribution of citizens to our common world. Many Americans take citizenship for granted. We were born in the United States and automatically became citizens. But what about those from other places in the world who seek U.S. citizenship? What goes into becoming a citizen? Read the following article, Becoming a Citizen the Naturalized Way. What aspects of this article might be relevant for working with PA students?
The rule or work of the people. CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) is the preeminent resource for engaging young people in democracy. This organization offers much material that captures how youth perceive and participate in democratic activity. There are many K-12 resources in the CIRCLE electronic repository.
Freedom is a product of collective self-determination. In other words, we are free if we live under the laws, society, or world that we have made for ourselves. Sometimes a core concept like freedom can be illustrated by the exact opposite, the loss of freedom. A current issue with which students might identify is bullying. Discuss this article with your students relative to freedom, Resources on Bullying and Cyberbullying,
Free spaces are places where people can express themselves, honestly disagree, and work together to take action. The concepts of public and freedom are combined in the idea of free spaces. Public Achievement presents an opportunity for citizens to create their own free spaces for action. For example, Democracy Plaza at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is a free space to encourage public discourse. "The mission of DP is to support the development of well-informed and engaged students through critical thinking and civil discourse on political ideas and issues." Here is a New York Times Learning Network lesson plan entitled, What's the Best Public Outdoor Space in Your Area? Consider using this as a core concept exercise with your students.
Interests makes a particular person or group connected to (or interested in) an issue or problem. Self interests are those concerns that people are concerned about relative to their personal health and well-being. For example, many people love music. Someone once said, "Music is what feelings sound like." A musician is dependent on music for giving his/her life meaning and expressing his or her feelings.
Public interests are concerns that are shared by people who share a community or even the planet. Environmentalists are people who hold in common the interest in growing healthy food, recycling, and advocating for clean water and soil and maintaining green spaces.
The Public Achievement Manual offers a good exercise to help students understand public and private interests.
Diversity is a fact of public life. In the public world, one encounters a variety of different people, ideas, histories, and cultures. To effectively solve public problems, one must learn to listen, appreciate, and work with others who, while different from themselves, are also affected by the same public issues and problems.
Teaching Tolerance is a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Teaching Tolerance web site provides a treasure trove of resources and lesson plans for upper elementary and secondary school level students. There is no better place to visit in cyberspace to gather information about diversity.
Power is the ability to influence other people, institutions, or processes. Power is often a foreign concept to young people. Youth are on "the other side of power." They are both the beneficiaries and sometimes, victims, of powerful influences. However, Public Achievement asserts that young citizens can be powerful well before they reach the age to vote. Here is a story of a young man who was encouraged to be powerful. The story's title is You Can. Consider this helpful Public Achievement exercise to identify and discuss power utilizes newspaper articles.
The GC Public Achievement first-year experience revealed a dominant theme and struggle that the PA coaches summarized with the word, respect. Inherent in establishing group cohesion and project momentum is respect for peers, coaches, community leaders, and public work dynamics. CIRCLE offers a report entitled "Adolescent Development of Trust" that might be helpful in understanding how young people perceive power.
Public speaking is the process of speaking to a group of people in a structured, deliberate manner intended to inform, influence, or entertain the listeners. Learning how to participate in a group discussion, interview another person, respond to a guest speaker, or make a presentation in front of a group of people is a valuable skill.
A recent New York Times article used on the Times Learning Network site offers some background on public speech. Great Debate: Developing Argumentation Skills
AmericanRhetoric.com is a free source for influential American speeches dating from the 1770s through the present day. The website was founded and is maintained by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Ph. D., at the University of Texas at Tyler. Authenticated full-text versions of several hundred speeches are readily accessible. External links are posted to audio and/or video of many speeches (some are excerpts) from the last half of the 20th century through the present. While the site concentrates on political rhetoric, a vast array of topical matter is represented here. Speeches related to American social movements, religion, professional sports, and entertainment are included in the mix. The site also offers famous "movie speeches" from classic American cinema. A handful of non-American speeches are stored here as well. http://www.americanrhetoric.com/
Being accountable involves being responsible to one or more other people or being responsible for an activity or task that will benefit you, others, and the public. Here is a an activity from the Public Achievement web site lessons' library called Rights and Responsibilities that will help young people understand the relationship between having a freedom or privilege and the concomitant responsibility.