Engagement with a public issue often grows out of personal experience. Consider these examples from public youth writing:
- Spending extra hours driving to school because a rockslide closed a mountain highway encourages students to advocate for a possible solution.
- Watching friends drop out of high school leads to advocacy for expanding the number of high school counselors.
- Experiencing a parent’s physical injuries during war prompts concern about the challenges facing homeless veterans.
Each of these issues has both a personal and a civic dimension. Each requires research into the problem, the strengths and limitations of potential solutions, and an understanding of the institutions and how individuals have the power to act. Each calls for considering and engaging with multiple perspectives and alternate positions.
Through civic writing, youth not only deepen their knowledge about civic issues but also enter into public conversation about questions that matter to them.
Through civic writing, youth build their understanding of how to reach audiences that extend beyond their families, friends, classmates, and teachers. They learn how to make thoughtful choices about language, evidence, and reasoning to achieve their purposes and reach their chosen audiences.
Thus, engaging youth in civic writing represents a way to support them in developing valuable academic skills (research, use of evidence, development of reasoning, writing) as well as crucial civic skills (engaging in dialogue across differences, understanding multiple perspectives, developing a trustworthy public voice).