January 20, 2018
"People should be civically engaged because otherwise they’re ceding the ground to others."
Bernard Harcourt is an author, lawyer, and critical theorist. In our conversation, we discover that civic engagement is a learned skill, the power of collective action, and the importance of remembering our truths and values.
Voting is a learned skill
A study showed that children who experienced the voting process or political conversations with their parents showed more civic engagement. It’s a skill that can be learned and should be promoted. Children and young people should learn that they can, how, and where to participate. Civic engagement is a fun, interesting, and important activity.
Civic engagement is our daily bread
Speak with others about political questions and social justice issues. Communicate with a representative or senator — even if it’s not your own — and share what we are thinking will influence the way they engage in debates. Writing reflections and thoughts about the political situation in local newspapers or online is another way to engage. And remember to vote. Every vote counts!
Take a step back and remember your truth
Once a day, try to center yourself and go through your comments and thoughts of the day. “Did I say the things that i believe in?” Take a step back and determine what is important, what your values and ethical beliefs are. Then recalibrate life, work, and personal communications in order to reflect your values. It’s an important, challenging, and time-consuming process.
Find out more
Bernard E. Harcourt is an author, justice advocate, and critical theorist specialized in social and political theory, the sociology of punishment, and penal law and procedure. He is the Executive Director of the Eric H. Holder Initiative for Civil and Political Rights, and the founding director of the Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought at Columbia University.