Civic Engagement and the Rate of Political Participation in Community

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Ratio of Political Awareness and Political Participation
  • Civic Engagement
  • Civic Education
  • Corruption and Political Dynasties
  • Unjust System
  • The Solution


Civics, which is defined as the study of the privileges and duties of one as a citizen of a society, undoubtedly plays a big role in our lives. We are surrounded and moreover affected by civics every single day, but even so, a number of people do not have sufficient knowledge about how our government works, and regrettably, are not aware of our rights and obligations in the society. For this very reason, proper civic education must be offered and, most importantly, accessible to every citizen. Providing civic education would notably enhance each individual’s civic literacy — the ability to understand and critically analyze policy issues, which requires understanding regarding democratic processes and addressing significant problems which concern the society.

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According to Mary Hylton (2015), our willingness and ability to engage civically and advocate politically is of crucial importance. This will be beneficial not only in ensuring the wellbeing of all who are part of the society, but to one’s survival as well. Civic literacy is essential and must be strengthened regularly, as knowledge about policy issues and other problems in regards to our citizenship improve one’s life; and when united, a whole society’s as well. But what does it really mean to be civically literate? Although there has been conflicts as to what civic literacy implies, most researchers agreed that it encompasses “a basic understanding of the structure and functioning of government as well as the political process through which decisions are shaped” (Hylton, 2015, p. 296).

Ratio of Political Awareness and Political Participation

Civic literacy has even been proven to be positively related to civic engagement. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE, 2013, p. 5) showed the relationship between civic engagement and civic literacy when they discovered that “...young people who do not vote lag far behind young voters in their political knowledge.”

However, there is still an unequal ratio between political awareness and political participation of the citizens. The younger people of the society tend to have greater political participation compared to their political awareness; and opposingly, the older people of the society have greater knowledge about policy processes compared to their political participation.

Civic Engagement

Civic participation is both one’s right and duty. That being said, it is important to keep in mind that every single person can make a difference; thus, civic literacy will help us exercise our right to speak about what we feel and generate new ideas on how to better improve our lives. Giving people the awareness and power to have a voice in their community is an important part in practicing democracy. Higher civic participation produces more well-disciplined citizens, therefore improving life in the community.

A way to better improve our civic literacy is by civic engagement. Civic engagement indicates our commitment to and involvement with the social contract. This refers to those activities through which we demonstrate our sense of belonging to a larger social order, as well as our understanding of an interdependence of responsibility for the common good. Civic behavior increases awareness of collective interests, and breaks down walls of ignorance, resulting in greater shared understanding and mutual trust (Keeter, Zukin, Andolina, & Jenkins, 2002, p. 4). Civic engagement is not just limited to the concept of voluntary associations undermining a centralized bureaucratic government (Skocpol, 1997); it also includes the citizens’ democratic efforts to engage with government and participation with the purpose of building a well-disciplined and just society. Specifically, civic engagement encompasses participation in both civic and political endeavors. Civic activities include activities such as volunteering, voluntary membership, community problem solving, and charitable fundraising. Political activities include activities such as voting, campaigning, boycotting, contacting media outlets, contacting public officials, testifying, signing petitions, political canvassing, and participating in protests (Keeter, Zukin, Andolina, & Jenkins, 2002).

Civic participation not only improves our political awareness, but one’s health as well. This is by building social capital, which is defined as the features of a social organization which assists the coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit. A study conducted by Gonzales (2016) discovered that members of civic groups were more likely to be physically active as they were opened to numerous opportunities to be physically active in their community. Participating in relevant civic activities also help individuals generate a sense of purpose, which may encourage resumed civic participation.

Civic Education

Expanding civic education across all disciplines also sends the message that civics itself is fundamental to life in a democratic society. No matter what your role in the society is, you are given opportunities to participate in, and it is expected for you to make the system work better for everybody. That being said, taking an active role in the society is vital, and at a young age we must make every citizen aware of that and the importance of civic literacy. Acquiring civic knowledge also empowers us to be active citizens and gives us a shot in making the world a better place.

Corruption and Political Dynasties

The lack of civic literacy among citizens renders us vulnerable to believing false information and fall into the traps of corrupt politicians. Democracy needs to be given importance, otherwise we will end up with a political culture which only revolves around futile gossip, and politics of unmerited personalities. If not avoided, we will have to deal with a political culture that lacks ethical foundations and moral imagination, therefore allowing itself to be devastated by grave tribulations such as the corruption of politicians and their dishonesty towards the public. The presence of political dynasties, also connected to these issues of corruption, is one of the most concerning problems in our government system nowadays.

Unjust System

Most people are reliant on a variety of systems—usually their jobs or the government—to varying degrees. There is a tendency for us to depend on a system to some degree, which makes it much more likely for us to defend the system, though it is not working for us anymore. This is the case with most citizens currently. Even though they know that they are not gaining anything and that the system is not efficient for them anymore, they choose to ignore the matter and even defend the system itself. A number of people also choose to comply with the unjust system, just because they are fearful and therefore abide with the given policies to avoid the hassle that comes afterwards.

The Solution

To make the ratio between political awareness and political participation of the citizens balanced, the youth should have their political awareness boosted and the older generation’s political participation expanded. In order for this to happen, civic education must be taught to citizens, especially at an early age, to shape their civic identity and increase their civic awareness and participation in the civic community.

Dr. J. K. Saroha (2012) emphasizes that giving the younger generation a significant place in politics plays a huge role in a country’s growth. Even something that might seem as minimal as political debates in the television or radio, help contribute to the youth’s political awareness. Since the use of media is also widespread nowadays, it can be used as an instrument in advancing one’s nationalism and political awareness. These days, social networking sites are also being used by the youth to engage in civic participation activities, as well as to gather information and enhance their knowledge on the issues concerning the country. If the youth and the older generation share their thoughts regarding policy issues, both parties will gain knowledge and a mutual perception on these matters. Unity will then be acquired, and political awareness will be shared. Moreso, with more political awareness and civic education offered, the citizens will be more encouraged to engage in activities that promote political participation.

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