In the past decade or so, much has been made of the younger generation's lack of civic engagement. In his article, “Universities and the Decline of Civic Responsibility," former Harvard president, Derek Bok, has all sorts of numbers at his disposal. He points to various studies, but it all boils down to the conclusion that young people are not as involved in their communities and the democratic process as they once were. For Bok, the problem is not so much a lack of awareness as it is a lack of interest. Why is it, even when aware of major issues and concerns, that younger generations do not show strong initiative? The solution, Bok suggests, is education, communication, and deeper service opportunities that allow the young to see connections across communities and nations that lead to a vested interest in civic engagement.
While the numbers Bok provides are disconcerting, there is exciting work being done across the nation to improve them. One such organization, The Center for Communication and Civic Engagement at the University of Washington, provides ample resources on new modes of communication. Looking at digital media from Facebook, to Twitter, to Youtube and blogs, the center has plenty of information on how new media can be used in a democratic society. The Northwestern Center for Civic Engagement also has tips, readings, and other links on how to get young people more committed and involved. I suggest browsing both websites to get ideas about how social media innovations can best be utilized for civic engagement. These days, time moves fast. But with new changes every day, there’s always a means to improve and expand the ways we communicate, learn, and participate.