A Citizen’s Guide to Greece 2015


March 12, 2014

Of civic rites of passage

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Written by: Politis

Eric Liu posed an interesting question in the Atlantic yesterday.

“… what if a rite… existed for everyone in America, attached not to a specific faith tradition but to a national creed of values, political traditions, and pro-social character? What if we created a civic confirmation experience that was both constructive and common to all?”

Liu points to “civil confirmation” programs in Iceland, Norway, Denmark, and Germany, in answer to his question, and insists that such a program, which “treats democracy as its own ethical and even spiritual experience,”  is sorely needed in the US. (In Greece, too, one might suggest.)

Imagine a weekly experience framed up by a cross-partisan array of educators and parents in which young people at the age of 14 or 15 would spend a year in guided learning about the values, power systems, and hard skills of citizenship in America. Instead of shying away from the controversial stuff, in the way that tentative public schools have, it would lean right into the arguments. Indeed, it would present American civic identity as a series of arguments over the meaning, application and priority of principles like freedom, equality, justice, and opportunity.

There could also be elements of service and contribution, in the same way that in most religious rites of passage young people have to prove through good works that they have absorbed the lessons.

In light of the way the rising generations of young people learn, an American civic-confirmation experience could be designed in the spirit of a wiki or TEDx: Provide a robust fixed frame, then let local learners and teachers flesh it out to make it continuously relevant and adaptive.

There would be no reward at the end for participating in a civic confirmation, no incentive beyond the simple recognition that unlike many of your age peers (and many people older than you) you’ve begun to reckon explicitly with the responsibilities as well as the rights of being a citizen.


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