Sprockets is a partnership between the Center for Democracy and Citizenship and the City of Saint Paul through the Second Shift Initiative with the Saint Paul Public School District, Saint Paul Federation of Teachers union, and many community-based organizations and individuals. Working together, we aim to ensure that young people in Saint Paul grow up in a culture of learning that spans the many learning environments that impact their academic achievement, skill development, and personal growth so that they successfully meet the demands and expectations for the 21st century.
The Center for Democracy and Citizenship uses the lens of public work, in which people from diverse backgrounds work across differences to solve public problems, create public goods, and build thriving, inclusive communities. A public work approach to education–building on rich traditions of formal and informal learning that emphasize young people’s capacities for productive contribution–focuses on how every young person can be successful as an individual and a citizen. Learning in Cities is also shaped by A New Day for Learning, a report by the Time, Learning and Afterschool Taskforce. The report argues that “the nation’s steady progress as an economy and as a society will end unless we…design a comprehensive learning system throughout the day, early to late, and year round so that young people have a seamless learning experience…with multiple ways of learning, anchored to high standards and aligned to educational resources throughout a community.”
Learning in Cities emphasizes the intellectual deepening of education as a kind of public work. Through this effort, we are developing vital communities of practice that generate learning cultures, and making the lessons of Saint Paul visible to broader audiences. Saint Paul is well poised to become a national and international model of a city-wide effort to create a learning culture infused with productive citizenship and democracy-building work.
A 21st century definition of youth success
From October through January, 2011, the Learning in Cities partnership brought together 300 business people, parents, young people, teachers, and others across the city for listening sessions. These stakeholders contributed their ideas to define youth success in ways that go beyond grades and standardized test scores. This new definition of youth success will be used as the foundation of Learning in Cities work and will be a guide for future policy and decision-making.
Using data to create a holistic picture of learning and achievement
Recognizing that Saint Paul has rich community resources to extend learning beyond the school day, the city’s Second Shift Initiative is exploring the creation of a data management system that would connect community-based youth organizations and allow the city to map trends in out-of-school time programming and provide data for evaluating its impact on academic achievement.
Bringing licensed and community teachers together through professional development
Through the Learning in Cities effort, the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers has agreed to engage youth workers and licensed teachers throughout the city in developing opportunities for relationship building and reciprocal learning and teaching around K-12 education standards. Licensed and community teachers will come together for the first time at the federation’s annual conference on March 6, 2010.
In order to align infrastructure and resources to best support youth success across the city of Saint Paul, the Learning in Cities initiative is catalyzing public conversation to create multiple, geographically aligned learning campuses throughout the city. Learning campuses will bring together libraries, recreation centers, schools, and community based organizations around a shared definition of youth success. The goals are to:
Increase accessibility to out-of-school time learning opportunities.
Foster collaboration between and among youth serving organizations.
Increase connectedness between the different learning environments that contribute to the success of young people.
Help young people and adults develop their civic capacities by involving them more deeply as co-creators in their communities.
Initial conversations about learning campuses have generated a great deal of enthusiasm. School principals, Saint Paul Public School administrators, representatives of the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers labor union, and local funders have already been engaged in discussions about how to create these learning campuses.
National Civic Agency Initiative with AASCU Schools
Agents and Architects of Democracy is a series of webcasts intended to spark discussion and action on higher education’s role in our democracy. The first webcast, The Democracy Mission of HigherEducation, asks how colleges and universities can reverse disturbing trends: pressures for higher education to become increasingly a private good with students as customers, and competitive success measured by how many are refused admission. In the second webcast, An Empowering Heritage — Democracy Colleges and Freedom, noted scholars examine the largely forgotten roles of historically black colleges and universities in the Civil Rights movement, and the role of land grant colleges in the development of American democracy. Preparing for Citizenship or a Career — A False Choice, the third and final webcast in the series, challenges the all too common “false choice” of preparing students for careers or preparing them for lives of meaningful citizenship.
Each webcast explores practical strategies and approaches that campuses can use to engage students and staff with the community in democratic culture change.
Leadership development and community organizing skills
For two decades, the Center for Democracy and Citizenship has led in the field of civic engagement by using theory-based practices to make democracy a way of life. These proven practices have been used in academic and community settings around the world. Staff of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship teach graduate and undergraduate organizing courses at the University of Minnesota under the Public Affairs course designator, and facilitate customized training sessions on community organizing and leadership development.
Hear students describe the Community Organizing for Effective Public Policy class and what they learned.
Research partnership with Kettering Foundation
Center director Harry Boyte has research support from the Kettering Foundation for several related projects. He continues to develop and deepen the political theory of public work, comparing the concept of the citizen as co-creator doing the public work of democracy to deliberative and other models of citizenship. Boyte completed several major theoretical pieces in 2009 arguing that public work holds potential to counter the toxic culture of consumerism in modern societies. He is also conducting interviews with faculty at Augsburg and other colleges and universities in the Twin Cities exploring their interests in public work approaches. Finally, Boyte is continuing a long term research project for the Kettering Foundation on the tradition of genuine American populism, contrasting it with the way the term is used in many current political discussions.