SAN JOSE, CA– On August 9, a county-wide discourse at the Santa Clara County Office of Education discussed civic engagement in local school, districts, and communities. This nonpartisan event aired via livestream on YouTube.
"This event is inspiring to me because I think that we as education and community leaders need to be the ones to say this is more important than we have thought in recent years, and we need to refocus ourselves on teaching our children the fundamental principles of our democratic institution," said County Superintendent of Schools, Jon R. Gundry.
A panel of experienced civic engagement and education leaders, moderated by Santa Clara County Board of Education Trustee, Joseph Di Salvo, shared their expertise in engaging communities and encouraging civil discourse and civics education. Several of the questions posed by Di Salvo focused on how schools across the county can support students with engaging civic education curriculum, instruction, and opportunities to participate in civic activities and simulations of democratic processes and procedures.
The topics included student activism, involvement, and engagement, especially regarding empowering students of color. The panel discussed building critical thinking skills, and involving students in local decision making through volunteer work, supporting community organizations, participating in public meetings, and taking part in community conversations. Other topics included understanding and examining biases and giving students the tools to become informed citizens.
"We want our students to be not only critical thinkers but also members of the community that are able to seek out the issues that impact their community and be able to either find solutions or seek the resources that are needed for them to be able to address those issues," said panelist Teresa Marquez, Director of Instruction for East Side Union High School District.
Keynote speaker, Ann Ravel, former chair of the Federal Election Commission under President Obama shared her perspectives. "We have to alter our political system…to encourage the engagement of all people in our government in civic life and in politics, starting with youth and adults as well. Of course – changing the federal system is a daunting task, but significant change is achievable at the local level."
The event kicked off a community-wide effort to develop a county wide strategic vision for expanded civic engagement. The recording of the event can be watched online, and viewers are encouraged to pledge support for nonpartisan civic engagement and education initiatives in Santa Clara County. For resources and information regarding this event and civic engagement in Santa Clara County, visit: http://bit.ly/democracyscc