Johns Hopkins Gazette: March 31, 1997

On Teaching:
IPS Preparing
Students To Be
Active Citizens

Christine A. Rowett
News and Information

In Tampa Bay, Fla., a group of community activists earlier this month organized a conference called "Creating a Community Spirit of Caring." More than 300 area residents gathered for the two-day event, which featured workshops on racial and religious harmony.

At Rutgers University in New Jersey, the Citizen and Service Education Program was created to "prepare our students to participate as active and effective citizens in a democratic society."

And the U.S. Department of Labor recently established the Corporate Citizenship Resource Center, which offers research materials, supporting evidence and examples of private businesses "committed to workers, their families and their communities."

The concept of combining personal morality and professional success is gaining momentum, and Lester Salamon couldn't agree more.

Salamon, the director of the Institute for Policy Studies on the Homewood campus, remembers a time in the 1960s when society focused on rights: the right to an education, a place to live. By the 1980s, though, most Americans had lost the desire to work for the common good. Most, he believes, were focused on making a buck.

"The notion of citizenship in helping your fellow man had been de-emphasized during the '80s," Salamon said. Now he believes the attitude pendulum may be swinging toward compassion, so Salamon is using that motion to expand the notion of professional citizenship and the responsibilities that come with that.

Professional citizens are those who are trained to hold jobs that involve efforts to solve public problems; that could include those in government, the nonprofit sector, education and for-profit industry. In other words, almost anyone.

"It involves a personal commitment to be concerned about public problems," Salamon said. "It could involve volunteering to help disabled people, working in soup kitchens, charitable giving."

The master's program citizenship curriculum includes instruction on moral and ethical policy, practical training on how policy makers work within the system to accomplish changes and how they actually connect to citizens.

Salamon encourages students to pick an area of interest, such as environmental pollution or inner-city poverty. They first determine what the problems are and what the possible solutions are. They then learn how to use the tools of the system, including government aid, agencies and private enterprise, to garner improvements or change.

"They come to Hopkins with a fairly strong commitment and sense of justice," Salamon said. "These are the people who will have paid positions doing this kind of work: analyzing problems, designing programs to solve problems."

IPS students are ripe for the program.

"I begin with the assumption that most students who are enrolled are convinced of the significance of being a good citizen," said political science Professor Matthew Crenson, who teaches Citizenship and the Policy Professional. "What I try to do is to remind them--as frequently as I can--that being a good citizen is not enough. Even being a good public servant is not enough."

Crenson asks students to ask themselves about whether or not they treat people fairly and about whether they are living up to their obligations as citizens.

"I think that unless you have some sense of your obligation to a larger public, you haven't really experienced everything you need to experience to be a sort of full-formed human being," Crenson said. "It's an idea that goes back to the days of Plato and Aristotle: if you aren't engaged in public endeavor, you are something less than a human being."

Such discussions make for some interesting classroom debates.

"Sometimes it's about just exploring what your values, biases and beliefs are," said Lisa Plimpton, a second-year master's student in the program. "It's making sure we realize what influence our beliefs may have on recommendations or how we approach things."

Interestingly, Crenson and Salamon have differing beliefs about universal professional citizenship. Specifically, Crenson does not believe it really exists.

"It's a part-time pursuit," he said. "A professional citizen is a government official. The rest of us have amateur status."

IPS recently received a $1.5 million grant (to be distributed over the next four years) from the Kellogg Foundation to enhance the policy studies program, specifically in the areas of citizenship and the management of alternative tools of government action.

It is one of the largest grants to higher education--and one of a handful earmarked for public policy programs--made by Kellogg.

In addition to expanding the program at Hopkins, the funds will make it possible for IPS to develop books and other curriculum materials that would make it possible for other universities to initiate similar courses of study.

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