martes, 11 de abril de 2006

Community Involvement

Daniel Franco

Government 2301-2460

Dr. Eileen Lynch

April 2006

14. Community Involvement

Using examples from the video, describe important assets and resources that are needed to make community activities successful.

The video lesson is right on the money when it states that some problems cannot be legislated into submission, but instead have to be wrestled to the ground on the trenches, by the people who are affected directly themselves. I especially liked the comparison about the federal government passing on the responsibility of implementing certain policies to the states with the way the many layers of government pass on the burden of dealing with many social problems to society itself.

In the video, we are shown several examples of community involvement and how each one of them requires the commitment of both the provider and the receiver to make them work.

Serving as the general commentator on the matter, L. Tucker Gibson, Jr., Chair and Professor of Political Science at Trinity University, tells us that there really hasn’t been that much increase on the amount of community involvement to deal with matters of policy or implementation of policies, or with programs of self-help or of community assistance. However, we are presented a few cases that seem to have a promising start.

We see James Fishkin, Professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin, introducing the concept of “Rational Ignorance” where a citizen does not act the way we would expect a citizen to act. Because a person might be thinking that his vote is only one in millions and therefore he shouldn’t bother learning the facts about the issues, this person in fact hobbles himself in a cyclic downward spiral of ignorance about the issues which in fact impedes his community involvement. Fishkin observed that people often are distracted with the urgency of daily events of their personal life and do not engage in discussion and understanding of important issues that are of social importance. Thinking that people’s opinions might be significantly different if given the chance to explore the issues at length, Fishkin launched the National Issues Convention in 1996 in order to produce a “poll with a human face”.

We also see in this lesson some instances of community involvement in the guise of direct action with the examples of the Family Pathfinder program, Mission Arlington, Communities Organized for Public Service (C.O.P.S.), the Metro Alliance, and the case of the Terlingua High School.

In the case of the Family Pathfinder program and Mission Arlington we see the community taking an interest in helping people to stabilize their economic situation before “setting them loose” back into society. They argue that after an economic setback (like welfare or evictions or broken families) people require support in order to avoid spinning out of control and landing back in a similar situation or worse. These programs help people in any manner they can to achieve a plateau where they can establish a firm foothold and start taking steps towards their realization as persons and families unaided. With C.O.P.S. and Metro Alliance we examine the concept that people need political power in order to help themselves, as demonstrated in the specific case of substandard living conditions in a sector of San Antonio city, and how those organizations helped the community to achieve a political significance that could be translated in benefits for their advancement. And lastly, we saw the sleep-deprived high school students of the small town of Terlingua finally getting a high school of their own as a social investment by their community that would pay dividends by helping more families to stay instead of moving and by growing in-house a better educated workforce that can only be of benefit to the community at large.

These examples of successful community involvement required active participation from both the providers and the receivers of the help offered, and determination and hard work. Like the mayor of Arlington said, the community efforts often have better results than the government efforts because the people involved do not take it as an imposition or obligation to pour their efforts in the community, but take it as personal fulfillment and realization.

Sources:

United States and Texas government I. Programs 1-26 [video recording], Presented by Dallas TeleLearning DCCCD, © 2005

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