Our philosophy is rooted in our understanding of civic engagement as a strategy for teaching civic mindedness and citizenship. We approach these practices through fostering critical listening, appreciation of diversity, long-term commitment, and self-reflection.
Civic mindedness involves a developed awareness of others that encourages us to recognize our own effectiveness and empathy as human beings who dwell in civil society. Civic mindedness is an essential attribute of the identity of individuals who see themselves as citizens and choose to participate in the cooperative process at the heart of community. As a disposition, civic mindedness is a practice individuals use to “work within the differences” that make up the complexity of local communities wherever they may be found in the world.
Critical listening entails the ability to listen carefully to others, appreciate their unique perspectives, and respond with civility and respect. Our capacity for critical listening can be enhanced through face-to-face encounters wherein we engage with the lives and stories of others who may differ from us in subtle or complex ways. As critical listening informs our capacity for empathy and respect, it is an essential skill for civic mindedness and citizenship.
Appreciation of diversity derives from a willingness to connect to others through curiosity and empathy in order to learn from commonalties as well as differences. Appreciation of diversity also derives from experiences that allow students to comprehend the complexity of difference and to develop capacities for respect, mutuality, and reciprocity in collaborative relationships. Since appreciation of diversity is essential to local and global citizenship, many of our community partnerships provide opportunities for students to engage with others across differences such as affluence, ethnicity, culture, age, ability, sexual orientation, and/or religion.
Long-term commitment is essential to our understanding of civic-mindedness. We do not engage in community partnerships to produce impressive statistics on volunteer hours. We want students to discover teachers and mentors among the people they work with. Students who are able to fully realize the satisfaction that comes from long-term relationships and initiatives are more likely to choose careers that continue to be fulfilling. Civic engagement is not about brief surface-level interactions with people “in need.” It is about understanding oneself in relation to others and learning how to best work together in community.
Student reflection. The CCC adheres to the service-learning pedagogical method, which involves the intersection of classroom theory, community-based service projects, and critical reflection. Reflection is one of the essential elements in service-learning because it helps students confront and analyze previous perceptions. The goal of this practice is to promote change and appreciation of both self and others.