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Del. Ken Plum: More on Civic Engagement

by Del. Ken Plum — August 10, 2017 at 10:15 am 17 Comments

This is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Never in my years in politics have I gotten as many questions from people as to what they can do to be more active in political affairs.

While the circumstances at the federal level that have given rise to this question are deplorable, there is a need to take advantage of this new or renewed interest on the part of citizens to get involved with their government. For folks who have been involved as volunteers in political campaigns or as advocates in issue-oriented organizations the lack of awareness and knowledge of the governmental processes on the part of their new helpers and associates is astonishing.

Even so, it is absolutely essential that the new interests be acknowledged and respected and activities and mentoring take place to ensure that the maximum number of people participate in civic affairs and upcoming elections. I was pleased that a civic engagement fair that I sponsored on a Saturday morning earlier this year attracted more than 300 attendees. The goal of the event was to match up organizations with potential volunteers and members. New movements like Indivisible have sprung up around the country, with the local Herndon-Reston Indivisible attracting as many as 400 attendees at one of its early meetings. The group has formed several very active interest groups.

Strong interest in more involvement in civic affairs is of course not limited to this region or state; it is national in scope. The most recent issue of the Council of State Governments publication, Capitol Ideas, has civic engagement as its theme. It looks at such concerns as “the key to repair trust in government” and “how technology reshaped civic engagement.” If one word was used to summarize the articles in this edition of the journal read by state government officials nationwide, it would be education. An article entitled “Civic Education: A Key to Trust” includes a harsh review of the way civics is taught in the public schools: “Unfortunately, the nation’s schools have been generally unhelpful in providing the kind of information that can teach their students how their governments actually work.” The result is that only 23 percent of eighth-graders scored at or above proficiency in civics, according to research by the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2014.

Improving civic education in our schools is critical to expanding engagement in the future, but action needs to be taken to involve more adults right now. The most obvious place to start is with voter participation in elections. Among the 35 nations involved in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United States ranked a shameful 31st in voter turnout. Laws need to be changed and increased emphasis needs to be given to removing barriers to voting and to getting people to the polls.

The recent influx of citizens interested in working for civic engagement can do a great deal to improve our political system — starting by encouraging others to vote on Election Day.

  • Mike M

    1) “While the circumstances at the federal level that have given rise to this question are deplorable . . .”

    You mean your party didn’t win? Don’t look now, neither did the opposition! Point USA! The people who don’t agree with you are not “deplorable,” Ken. Now is that “civic engagement?”

    2) “. . . renewed interest on the part of citizens to get involved with their government.”

    Once again you betray you bias that only Liberals count.

  • Most John

    The real problem with American Politics are Career Politicians. The only reason people get involved with politics today is Personal Gain. Either fiscal gain, or they get off on power. That is it… Politicians are not noble, nor are the serving the public. They only serve themselves (PERIOD).

    • Tilted Terminator Reboot

      That is why the next presidency matters the most, ask yourself. ..

    • RestonAssurance

      This is true, it typically takes a narcissist to lead. The finest example in Trump.

      • The Constitutionalist

        Leaders don’t exist without followers.

  • 30yearsinreston

    More Kem Plum drivel and whining
    Its getting tiresome

  • Ed Oppenheimer

    Use the police force to go after cold case felonies instead of putting minorities and the poor into cages for victimless crimes. Clean up the mess in VDOT that promotes the gridlock in Fairfax by refusing to synchronize traffic lights or put in sensors so standing cars polluting the air will not wait for nothing. (the EPA may give VA a grant for the reduction in carbon monoxide) We want more effective government not more government or people wanting government to do things it is not designed to do.

    • RestonAssurance

      The EPA’s funding was slashed. Besides no funding for grants, the air and water condition degrading will certainly bring us back to that elephant in the room; healthcare, when more and more people become sick with cancers and neurodegenerative diseases.

      • Mike M

        So, if only we spent more money we could solve all problems including disease and mortality? Never mind that we are rolling toward a painful bankruptcy, right?

      • The Constitutionalist

        Yep, just like it used to be before we had Obamacare. I remember the good old days just a few short years back when I had to put my Lexus into 4 low just to get to the office because the dead bodies were piled up so high.

        Man, it was so bad then that all the insurance companies were pulling out of every market completely, and no one knew the definition of an economic death spiral.

        #thebadolddays.

  • Honestly

    He’d be better off working at Google.

  • Haw

    “Civic Education: A Key to Trust” includes a harsh review of the way
    civics is taught in the public schools: “Unfortunately, the nation’s
    schools have been generally unhelpful in providing the kind of
    information that can teach their students how their governments actually
    work.”

    HAW, HAW.

    If kids knew how govt actually worked, their trust in it would DECREASE to ZERO.

    • The Constitutionalist

      Wait…

      Our government works?

      • Haw

        For values of “worked” that include “enriching the politically connected at the expense of the politically unconnected”.

        • The Constitutionalist

          Oh, haw haw, I get it. I guess we are all just being scammed and have no choice in the matter whatsoever. I can’t make smart financial decisions, work hard, live within my means, invest properly, and save money. My mean politician took it all away and stuck it into his own pockets. Only politically connected people can build wealth and live comfortably.

          Next you’re going to tell me that money saved is money wasted and that the only thing that can save us now is socialist policies and a single payer healthcare system.

          You do realize that it’s the administration you vote for that does exactly this, right?

  • Rational Reston

    Want to civic engagement?

    Don’t vote for Del. Plum or anyone (ether party) that espouses some agenda handed to them. Also, don’t espouse any agenda handed to you.

    Think for yourself and elect those that also think on their own.

  • drb

    I agree with Ken that the schools do not teach civics. If civics were taught then the population as a whole would know that what people like Ken advocate is unconstitutional. We that do understand the role of government spend so much time trying to fight off people like Ken from forcing their beliefs on the rest of us that there isn’t much time left to educate people in civics.
    People are disappointed in government because the politicians will not do what they promise. (Republicans) The rest want to subjugate the population in violation of their oaths of office. (Democrats)
    The left wants to distract with talk of democracy. What of Liberty and freedom?

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