A Chat with Summer Intern Hannah Lang
If we were to ask ten people on the street what “civics” means, we’d get back ten unique answers. We are all familiar with the term, but what does it really mean?
Civics emphasizes the role of the citizen – our rights, responsibilities, and duties. How the term is further defined depends on who you are talking to.
It’s important to recognize that civics can have multiple meanings, because how we define it affects the way it is taught and what shape it takes in our communities and democracy.
At Morven Park’s Center for Civic Impact, we build our definition around the actions of civics – sharing your voice, examining issues, taking responsibility for your choices, and making an impact on your community and democracy. But, even amongst our team here we each explain our work a little differently, and we want to share those perspectives in a series called “Talks with the Team: What Does Civics Mean to You?”
This contributing post comes from our summer intern Hannah Lang who helped lead three week-long summer KaMP (Kids at Morven Park) sessions for elementary aged students in July 2015.
During Summer KaMP we had a variety of activities on the schedule, but dodgeball was a popular favorite at our camp, even though the shrieks begging us to play another round were almost always equally matched with tears and sniffles. We must have played at least 40 rounds of dodgeball throughout the week, and each time the whistle blew that signaled the kids to start, I braced myself for the “I’m not playing anymore!” declarations.
You’re never going to have a perfect dodgeball game with young children. There are too many strong personalities that are just waiting to clash. And the “I quit!” yells aren’t going to end as these children grow up; in fact, they might become even stronger. “I quit!” people will say when the political candidate they voted for loses. “I quit!” adults will say when something doesn’t go their way. Life is full of “I quit!” and crossed arms and doesn’t end at age six.
But in our game of dodgeball, the crying and scowling on the sidelines only lasted for two minutes before tears were wiped away and kids bounded back in to join their team. Maybe the best part was the other kids that comforted those who were hurt. Or maybe it was that the teams didn’t care which players had announced, “I quit!” because they considered everyone to be a part of their team, no matter what.
I learned that perhaps our civic goals shouldn’t be measured by how well everyone gets along, because the world is filled with strong personalities that aren’t going to work together in any circumstance. Civics isn’t about being a perfect citizen in a perfect world, because there’s no such thing. Instead, it’s about bouncing back from challenges and learning from others.
Civics doesn’t have to start in eighth grade or when you turn 18 – civics is an important component of childhood. And dodgeball, of course.