Friday, June 1, 2007

Promoting Prosociality

I'm quite positive that I have a high Prosociality index score. I care about and work to create a fair and egalitarian society. I also believe that is why I like the Green Party so much. My personal values wed well with the Party's Ten Key Values. Particularly important o me is the fact that this party promotes a social just strong grassroots democracy and activism. These efforts to support and improve the lives of all citizens, especially the most vulnerable, e.g. the working class poor, who lack the big-time financial and political clout to "grease" the wheels of democracy - if you know what I mean.

I have a strong sense of civic responsibility. In fact, I attribute my strong sense of righteous indignation and Nazi-like environmental behaviors to my sense of civic duty. I'm an altruist, dammit. But I'm also quite non-conformist and often anti-authority and this is quite problematic among African-American social institutions. The clash of generations (Gen X &Y vs baby Boomers and other ancients) is a very serious thing and causing some serious rifts within many Black Religious denominations, Fraternities, Sororities, Social and Civic organizations/clubs/associations. Surprisingly, though I can be a pain to such authority figures, I also credit my membership with such organizations for my powerful sense of civic duty. Ironic, eh?

My enthusiasm for school, particularly science education reform, is based on these sames feeling of responsibility and duty. A review by André Blais on D.E. Campbell's book Why We Vote awakened me. "Schools are mean to to produce intelligent citizens but also responsible ones". Based on Campbell's study, people become civically engaged in order to fulfill a sense of civic duty and/or to protect their own interests. He even states that school - formal classroom lessons, such as those provided in social studies, civics, history, economics, etc- plays an important role in cultivating this sense of duty. Read more here.

Now some schools have gone a step further in promoting prosociality. Many districts require high school students to complete X number of community service hours as a graduation requirement. But many fail to ensure that the students actually learn the intended lessons of the requirement. (To learn more about service-learning, read here.) This bothers me. Already many classrooms lessons are filled with "doing busy work", now well-intentioned programs to get kids to become good citizens is doing the same thing.

Presently, I've become rather impatient and irked by the lack of leadership provided by many African-American Civic and Social Service organizations. Why? Because they seem to have become distracted and suffer from an organizational illness I call Mission Drift. Seems to me, that they are not truly promoting and cultivating civically engaged citizens, like they once did. In fact, Bruce Gordon left the NAACP after only 19 months because he thought the organization needed to re-think its plan so as to become more effective (read here for more info). I don't know if I agree with Gordon or not but it still calls attention to something important: Are we being effective or are we just doing something that looks and sound good?

What's with this "doing something for the sake of doing it" pre-occupation?
How can African-America institutions, civic organizations, social service providers, help empoer people as opposed to enabling them or ignoring them?

The condition of poor people, people of color, and the disadvantaged is to grave to allow these less-than effective activities to continued un-challenged and un-checked. The time is long overdue to be accountable, to encourage our children and neighbors to be self-sufficient, self-reliant, responsible, and discerning. Those of us who 1) know better, 2) care enough, and 3) have the abilities should start calling others to task. We should set an example for others. Help educate those who are most vulnerable. In other words, we should extend some of our social and intellectual capital to create a better citizenry and neighborhoods.

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