Working Together for Civic Improvement

Posted April 13th, 2011 by Albert DeCiccio Ph.D., Provost, Southern Vermont College

I still owe a piece explaining the idea of 4:00 in the morning.  That’s coming, so stay tuned. 

Today, want to use two powerful quotations to exemplify the demand for community and the power that comes from joining with others in common cause. 

The first comes from the book Other People’s Children, by critical theorist Lisa Delpit. The book talks about discriminatory educational classroom practice and suggests ways to overcome this problem.  Here is the quotation: “When one ‘we’ gets to determine standards for all ‘wes’ then some ‘wes’ are in trouble.”  This syntactically interesting line underscores how power works to keep those without it powerless.  It also suggests that the last thing those in power want is community action.

Here is the second quote, which comes from Soul of a Citizen by activist Paul Rogat Loeb: “There’s no greater antidote to powerlessness than joining with others in common cause.”  Those who advance social justice—like the people who teach and those who learn—appreciate the validity of this line. Loeb’s books chronicles community action projects that advance just causes, and he might have been well have been writing about SVC’s commitment to civic engagement.

To be sure, when we join with others, as Loeb argues, we can re-write the Delpit line to read like this:  “When some ‘wes’ work in community then one ‘we’ is a part of all ‘wes’ who, together, set standards, which are sure to be egalitarian and democratic.”  All of us at this College embrace this ethos.  That is why our curriculum requires all students to engage in service-learning and community service starting in their first year. 

This emphasis on civic engagement is why SVC is now on the Carnegie Classification List for Community Engagement. I think I speak for everyone at SVC in concluding that we all look forward to being engaged in the larger civic community for many years to come.

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