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Chapter 2: Civic Activity


For various reasons, the unfortunately large gap between 1 percent and 4 percent is difficult to close correctly. Social scientists should long ago have developed precise data on this highly meaningful figure (see also pages 136-37, 144-45).


The rigidities of most people will peep out when you attempt to explain why sometimes the cutting line may be one score and sometimes another. Most of us are still Platonists in our belief in the real existence of words and Aristotelians in our "off-on" nation of existence and change. Maybe reminding students of the way a thermostat is "arbitrarily" set to go and off according to different needs, or how people may be divided "arbitrarily" according to age in different ways for different purposes, will establish that we are not perpetrating an elastic, slippery deception.


The categories of activists, so nicely named, are of course ultimately to be based on some quantified measure of activity and effects.


It might be well to connect the idea of "awareness" with the idea of assimilation (identification) in our trilogy of the soul (page 45). Awareness here means perception and information coming after involvement in (or assimilation or displacement of) these given areas of public issues. Can someone in class give a convincing answer to Axelrod's "ridiculous" statements?


I think that this table may be important enough to use as a test. Scramble the percentages in column 2 and ask the students to put them right. Let them examine the method of scoring (page 129-30) while rearranging them.


On violence and terror, you'll have to fight the students over the 25 percent figure, but I've already had my fights over it, so I'm sure you'll win. You might ask a student to prepare a history of the Yablonski family murders and the United Mine Workers, carrying through the nasty trials and the final defeat of the bad guys with the federally guarded union elections of 1972.

Dose everyone in the class realize that terror in America has been class-based and ethnic-based, but that exposes of terror have usually occurred on the rare occasions when "anarchists," "assassins," "communists," and "wobblies" (IWW) have attacked individuals of high political and industrial rank? If not, why not?


You might want to run down the lists for academic politicization or politicalization (horrible words, both, but what can we do?) item by item to assure agreement, elicit criticism, and maybe check each item off against your college. (We should remember how prone we are--some more than others--to say, "Ah, yes. This happens over there. Tsk, tsk." Things we agree with are never horrible, criminal, and sinful; they are normal activities.)


Can students add to the examples of novel forms of political participation? Start, maybe, with Jerry Rubin's appearance before a Congressional committee dressed in the American flag; what thoughts did that inspire?


Why is political and activity limited? These five points might be memorized and tested as might the five demands upon the supply of activists (pages 142-44).


Should civil servants (like Chester) be cut off from political activity? Should a government contractor? Should their wives? Conflict of interest might be introduced here. If over half the population are directly or indirectly benefiting from government jobs, contracts, services, and pensions, can the necessary political activity be kept uncontaminated?


Perhaps a committee of the class might prepare a Charter of Civic Participation and ship it to a state legislator or congressman for possible introduction as a resolution.


The completed forms from this page might be collected from the class and a summary report made of their contents.


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