“The practice of democracy is not passed down through the gene pool. It must be taught and learned anew by each generation of citizens.”
-Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor
Being a well-informed citizen has, in some ways, never been easier. Citizens have excellent access to information, facilities and government services. Access to basic healthcare and information about public health has never been as abundant. Educational resources are available in the most remote locations and an astonishing amount of content is available for free from libraries and online resources.
However, being civically literate has never been more challenging. One source from Wayne State described civic literacy as “the knowledge of how to actively participate and initiate change in your community and the greater society.” As an example of the fast changing skill requirements, Mae Jemison, former NASA astronaut and principal of the 100 Year Starship Foundation, speaks passionately about the need for leaders and everyday citizens to also be “science literate.” The ability to process and understand basic science and technology concepts is increasingly important to fully participate in today’s fast-paced world.
The set of skills beyond basic reading, writing and arithmetic that were once required for citizens to get a job and maneuver throughout the day are simply not enough to keep up today. A growing list of technology-oriented skills are necessary to understand the fast paced, global era we are living in.
Why does this matter to economic development leaders? Because without a well-informed citizenry your community cannot thrive or sustain itself, set ambitious community goals or compete economically. A globally competitive workforce requires that employees be engaged, competent citizens as well.
This report from the Partnership for 21st Century Learning is an excellent reminder of the importance of civics today.
While many look backward to a time when civics was taught in every school room, I urge us all to look forward to a world where that is necessary not only in the school room, but also in the workplace and at home.
Columbus 2020 Update
- This week, the Columbus 2020 team will travel to Canada to meet with companies and attend the SelectUSA Manufacturing Forum at the Canadian International Auto Show.
- Next week, our team will travel to Phoenix and Los Angeles as well as China to meet with companies and consultants.