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Generation Citizen looks to get folks engaged - for a stronger democracy

Alicia Fraire / Red Dirt Report
Amy Curran, with Generation Citizen, speaks to the Exchange Rotary Club in Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Following a successful Oklahoma Civics Day on May 12th at the state capitol, a local representative of the national non-profit and non-partisan organization Generation Citizen, wanted to continue spreading the word about the importance of civic engagement.

Enid native Amy Curran, a Rotarian, spoke to the Exchange Rotary Club about this civic-minded organization, which is new to Oklahoma City, and its role in ensuring that every student – ultimately across America – receives the skills and knowledge to engage in the democratic process in an active way.

As their mission statement notes: “We envision a country of young people working to collectively rebuild our American democracy.”

And Curran is passionate about civic engagement, which led her to Generation Civizen, which has offices on both coasts and in addition to OKC, the Austin, Texas area.

“Civic engagement is something we all care about. Public education is something we all care about,” Curran said, and regarding Generation Citizen, “We are a new organization.”

Curran’s story involved having children and then becoming involved in Oklahoma City Public Schools – followed by her awareness of the serious problems facing public schools and educators in Oklahoma.

And while educating herself, Curran said she learned about Generation Citizen, an organization that encourages people to become engaged in the political process and have a better understanding of civics.

“We don’t have a ton of civics education in our schools,” she said, adding that beyond learning about the three branches of government and who the Founding Fathers were, civics knowledge faded from there - and that is to the detriment of our country in the long run.

“Generation Citizen, at its core, is a solution to the lack of civics skills and knowledge … and (addressing) the growing civics-engagement gap,” she said, noting how young people are “divorced” from the political process (only 20 percent of Millennials trust the federal government to do what is right most of the time) and this, in part, leads to the election of people who don’t represent everyone they are to represent.

As noted in the handouts provided to the rapt Rotarians on this recent Wednesday meeting at Dunlap Codding on Film Row, while an effective democracy demands an informed, active citizenry that is educated and engaged, some statistics noted that 64 percent of young people do not see the political system as a way to make change, and only 23 percent of 8th graders were proficient in civics, the worst result, second to knowledge of history.

So, what does it mean to have Generation Citizen in Oklahoma, one of the few states in the middle of the country to have a GC presence?

“We focus on low-income schools, because that (features) the highest civics engagement gap,” Curran said. “Those are the folks whose needs aren’t being met, the ones who are frustrated the most – and they don’t know how to engage.”

Socio-economic issues play a role, she said, while noting that with so much focus being put on education and politics (and their failures in recent years), starting a Generation Citizen chapter here made sense. And that includes reaching out to all groups and political persuasions. Inclusivity is imperative.

“Oklahomans are strong, resourceful people,” she said, which basically means “we’re poor. Instead of saying ‘we’re poor,’ we say we’re resourceful. Because we use our resources well. We’re scrappy. I think that (characteristic) can help out with the rest of the country.”

To learn more about Generation Citizen or how to get involved, go to GenerationCitizen.org.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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