Thoughts on Young People and Entrepreneurship

Here’s an article I wrote called “A Nation of Entrepreneurs?” based on my work with the Young Entrepreneurs Study (YES), a joint Stanford/Tufts research project on how entrepreneurial skills and goals develop in early adulthood. My co-P.I. on this project is Professor Richard Lerner of Tufts University, and one of the other project leaders is Professor Kendall Bronk of Claremont Graduate University.

Thoughts on New Directions in the Study of Moral Psychology

I’d like to share with you my article “Why We Can’t All Just Get Along,” published June 14, 2012, in Defining Ideas, a Hoover Institution Journal. It is a review of Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.

Thoughts on the Role of Virtue in a Democratic Society

I’d like to share with you my article, “The Death of Honesty,” published January 12, 2012, in Defining Ideas, a Hoover Institution Journal, which explores how moral numbness brought on by a decline of honesty and a failure to cultivate virtue in citizens can be a threat to democracy.

Thoughts on Education for Entrepreneurship

I’d like to share with you my article, “The Education of Steve Jobs,” published September 16, 2011, in Defining Ideas, a Hoover Institution Journal, which explores questions about how to educate young people for entrepreneurship.

Radio Discussion on Keeping the “American Dream” Alive and Well

On 29 July 2011, I took part in a timely radio discussion hosted by Dr. Howard Gluss, a clinical psychologist and film and television expert from Los Angeles. I shared the hour with Melissa Febos, another author. The section of the broadcast focusing on my book Failing Liberty 101 is the second thirty minutes.

The discussion with Dr. Gluss was very thoughtful – his insights reminded me of the way people with whom I worked in the entertainment industry are so good at putting their fingers on the pulse of the public’s sensibilities.

Link to podcast

More Thoughts on Civic Purpose

I’d like to share with you my article, “American Amnesia,” published July 1, 2011,  in Defining Ideas, a Hoover Institution Journal, which explores our national crisis of young people failing civics.

Civic Purpose among American Youth Today

Political knowledge and interest among the young has been in decline for fifty years. Although some of today’s young are active in civic and political affairs, there are huge gaps in the interest and participation of the broader youth population. Such gaps can be found in voting patterns, political knowledge, aspirations to civic leadership, and attitudes towards public life.

Even in the highly charged 2008 presidential election, only 52% of 18-24 year-olds voted, a mere 4% increase over 2004 and on the low end of trends since 1972 (when 18-year-olds were first granted the vote). Our own research on youth purpose has found that only a tiny fraction of young Americans now aspires to political leadership. What’s more, young people’s attitudes about our democracy are often marked by skepticism, distrust, and lack of interest. Of special concern is that disadvantaged and culturally marginalized populations of youth often express the highest degrees of alienation and disaffection.

Over the past several years, I have pursued a research program devoted to understanding how young people acquire and act on goals that are both personally meaningful and oriented toward contributing beyond the self – that is, how young people develop purposes that motivate their social behavior over the long term. This research has documented the positive effect of purpose on academic, social, and civic outcomes. A dimension of purpose that is critically important in a democratic society is civic purpose. When young people acquire civic purpose, it can motivate them to tackle noble challenges, such as establishing organizations for environmental protection and providing much-needed assistance to people in developing countries.

Civic purpose is a fundamental developmental and educational outcome that prepares the ground for fully engaged citizenship. Civic purpose requires the following:

  1. Concern beyond the self: The recognition that we live in an interconnected society in which the welfare of any one individual depends to a large extent on the well-being of the whole society.
  2. Civic virtue: A sense of obligation to protect, defend, and contribute to one’s society, and to sacrifice for it when necessary.
  3. Awareness of politics as consequential: Appreciation that political decisions and actions affect our lives, the lives of those we care about, and the welfare of the society we share.
  4. Agency: The desire to have a voice in what happens and the belief that one’s voice matters.
  5. Preparation for participation: The recognition that, in order to make a positive contribution, civic knowledge and skills are needed.
  6. Practical idealism: Ideals and aspirations must be put into action; reciprocally, actions must reflect careful judgment and informed choices.
  7. Identity: A sense of self as a concerned citizen, an attachment to one’s country, and an awareness – suffused by gratitude – that the best traditions and ideals of one’s society are a legacy handed down through the labors and sacrifices of many who have gone before.

In our initial research on the state of civic purpose among American youth today, we have found little interest in national political affairs. But we did find civic activity around issues of personal concern, such as the availability of sports programs. We have recorded instances of early civic and political activities such as preparing for future leadership through studying and learning; giving speeches; writing essays about civic and political issues; organizing other students and raising their awareness of civic issues; fundraising; representing students in school government roles; campaigning by going door to door; interning for a political official; making changes at school by advocating new policies; meeting with experts on issues such as environmentalism and law; protesting community events that cause anger; lobbying; writing e-mails to officials; and communicating to one another about issues of societal concern on social media. In addition, we found expressions of faith in the American democracy and the American Dream that contain far more idealism than common media portrayals of such notions, even among students from highly disadvantaged urban areas. But all of these positive glimmerings of civic purpose are set against a backdrop of far too much apathy, detachment, and lack of interest. I’ll be writing on this blog more about this in coming weeks, as a follow-up to the book that is to be released in May 2011, Failing Liberty 101 How we are leaving Young Americans Unprepared for Citizenship in a Free Society.

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