Grandma's Recipe

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

Growing up, we had family night once a week on Tuesday with our extended family. I knew that everyone always was quick to get their helping of mawmaw’s (that's southern for Grandma) famous Chess Bars—and if you didn’t act soon enough, you’d find yourself without any. This is something that I took for granted until mawmaw (my Aunt Jean) developed Alzheimer’s disease and was unable to make the beloved dessert. That’s when it became important for us to find the recipe—so that we could replicate the sweet delicacy. It’s interesting to me that we are so protective over “mawmaw’s recipe” or that other secret family recipe—in my mind I’m seeing a commercial for Bush’s Baked Beans and the dog constantly trying to cue us, the fervently interested viewers, in on the secret. In fact, it is a shock to me that we are less concerned about handing down civic values to our children—and treat it so sacred—as we do the family recipe.


It would seem that there would be a similar process for handing down civic values—a recipe, if you will. That’s it, we need a standard—tried and true—like grandma’s apple pie recipe of civic virtues/citizen values that we can pass down to our children and they to their children. I am talking about something that transcends politics and hits each of us at that level where we stand equal before each other.


How do you define these civic virtues/citizen values? I think we can all agree that there are certain essentials that those in a good civic society should possess. Among those, concern for neighbor, willingness to volunteer, the desire and follow through to vote and participate in other democratic institutions, serving on a board for a nonprofit, a coach for little league, or as a member of town council.

If we know the civic outcomes we desire, the “grandma’s apple pie” of the recipe equation, then it stands to reason that we can reverse engineer to see what inputs and outputs are needed to serve as our civic ingredients. The technical term for what we are building is a logic model

(Inputs + Activities + Outputs = Outcomes & Impact). While I will address this logic model from an institutional perspective (school, community organization, etc.), you could easily adapt this model to the personal level as well with your own children.


Certainly, this is not a one-size-fits-all solution. I work with what I call the Youth Civic Development Continuum. This continuum recognizes that not all students enter into civic engagement at the same entry point. Some, for example, enter the process in a youth intervention program such as an after-school program aimed and keeping students off of the street and to provide academic support to ensure success. Others may enter the process at other places along the continuum.



The goal, regardless of entry point, is for the student to emerge from the continuum in a better place than which they started. It should be stated that the goal is not to have students emerge running for office. Rather, the goal is that we are intentionally and consistently developing students who are educated and equipped to be informed and active citizens. If we ever figure out the recipe to what makes a good citizen, then we can depend on consistent results—just like grandma’s award winning apple pie.