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Civics Glossary

My editor from 2008 to 2021, Cherie Tyers, had an interesting comment in the third draft of Diary of a Future Politician. She said, “Dave, you are using terms that many people will struggle with.”

Cherie is kind of a political person, kind of not. I thought if this story was losing her, it might be losing other readers.

I then realized that within my lifetime, it seems we have collectively lost a lot of knowledge of civics: the relationship between the people and their government. This concept is not taught in schools the way it used to be. Fewer people are volunteering to sit on community boards. Fewer people understand how to conduct themselves at meetings. Our increasing entertainment options have kept us away from participating in a community. We are less taught and practiced in these community affairs.

So I agreed with Cherie. I needed to provide some mechanism to teach some readers about civics. But it was not a good plotline to put all the necessary civics lessons throughout the story, although a few lessons did become part of the plot. So I identified the words and phrases in Diary of a Future Politician that could use a little supplemental explanation. I put them into the Civics Glossary of this book.

Readers can choose whether to read this glossary or not. If they have a good understanding of civics, they need not read it.

As well, readers whose first language is not English may find the glossary useful to understand the story of how average people can build this new democracy.

My knowledge of civics came from several sources. My first exposure was my parents. Both Mom and Dad served on community boards and sometimes brought a kid along. I remember being bored, but I also saw things were getting done. Then in Grade 6, my class became a small arm for the Canadian Red Cross. We raised money and sent it to the Red Cross. Our teacher set up meetings where we learned some basic parliamentary procedures to formalize our collective decisions. I served on several boards in my early youth. All those earlier civics lessons were useful.

Then I got into politics. All of a sudden, those meetings got a lot more procedural. While I joined a Toastmasters Club to enhance my public speaking skills, the bigger benefit was the training for parliamentary procedures, which I found—as Mr. Spock says—fascinating. This training became very useful for me to navigate in a political party.

And politics brought me to a higher understanding of how legislative assemblies actually work. I was amazed at how many newly elected politicians have very little knowledge on this matter. They campaign on getting things done so easily, yet are unaware of the various rules for getting those things done. 

When I read political commentary from some political writers on Medium, it’s not hard to see that these writers too have a rather poor understanding of civics. They have not served in a political party or worked on campaigns or organized as activists. These people probably have not even served on community boards. They would be fairly lost if they are dropped into such a formal situation where they actually become decision makers. Those of us who have been in these situations know we can’t just, write or say a few words, wave a wand, and make things happen.

If this article’s readers want to challenge their understanding of civics, the following link takes them to my Civics Glossary. 

Published on Medium 2021

Civics Glossary

Robert's Rules of Order