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Possible final project stuff

This class has focused on education for K-12 ages for just reason. It is quite interesting and very important. Lifelong learning (as cliche as the phrase seems to have become) is a bit more up my alley and I'm interested in the role of popular culture as a means for education and engagement after high school or college. Hoping Prof. Swiss will approve, in the meantime:

In 2002 the U.S. Census Bureau conducted SPAA, the NEA’s Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. 17,135 adults (18 years or older) were interviewed with a 70% response rate. In short, the results demonstrated that people who attended performing arts (classical or jazz concerts, plays, operas or musicals, and ballet) and those who were “literary readers” (short stories, novels, plays, or poetry) were more active in their communities and more socially engaged (charity or volunteer work, sports participation). While across many demographic measures arts participants engage in civic/social activities at much higher rates, rates of participation in both areas, arts and civics, are falling among younger adults. The study does not “attempt to show cause and effect” (p.2), NEA chairman Dana Gioia speculates the “proliferation of electronic entertainment options” has “drawn” them away from arts and social engagement. It is very likely that younger adults are “drawn away from engagement” only or largely in terms measured by the study, however it is an interesting point that when further explored might just indicated a need for other means to draw this cohort into civic engagement in some of its more traditional forms (ie. face-to-face). Perhaps this is a moment for popular culture collections as civic discourse catalysts.

Many popular culture collections are associated with academic libraries in institutions of higher learning. Such relationships provide a number of advantages for a civic engagement agenda: a relatively captive audience of young and lifelong learners, associated resources in library collections of the non-popular culture nature, and a growing awareness of the civic engagement movement among academic librarians and campus leaders. Past ALA president Nancy Kranich with co-authors Michele Reid and Taylor Willingham, highlight the role of colleges in "...reinvigorating the democratic spirit of the country..." while acknowledging that "...robust democracy and the public welfare depend on an engaged and informed citizenry..." (380-1). They suggest that academic libraries are “ideally suited to play a critical role in rekindling civic spirit by providing not only information, but also expanded opportunities for dialogue and deliberation…” (381). Sponsoring deliberative forums, guiding research for participatory action, moderating study circles, as well as engaging faculty, administrators, and community leaders are among the actions Kranich et al propose. In many cases, such activities are already underway within academic as well as public libraries – often with or without the explicit goal of civic dialogue or engagement. The content of popular culture collections and the important role of popular culture in many peoples’ lives opens another realm for hooking participants and providing fun and engagement together. (not to suggest that being civically or artistically involved isn’t usually fun…)


Kranich, Nancy, Michele Reid and Taylor Willingham. “Civic Engagement in Academic Libraries: Encouraging Active Citizenship.” College & Research Libraries News 65:7 (July/August 2004), 380-383, 388, 393, 400.

National Endowment for the Arts. The Arts and Civic Engagement: Involved in Arts, Involved in Life. Washington, D.C.: National Endowment for the Arts, 2006. Second Reprint, June 2007.