Community and Commitment
“From community comes commitment and commitment builds community.” – D. Lark Gamey
The Oxford dictionary defines “community” as a group of people living together in one place; a group of people having a common characteristic (such as religion, race, profession, etc.); a fellowship based on common interests; or the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common. Although any one of these definitions could apply, I believe the latter definition relates to the classroom environment.
Our community, as it is here in the classroom, is composed of a large number of individuals with unique backgrounds. We each contribute to the group in form that advances our full understanding of each subject through our expression of the communities from which we have come. In his article, Sichling compared community to neighborhood. The act of sharing familiarity with a topic produces a community. The neighborhood’s physical characteristic dictates a relationship based solely on location. In the case of a local neighborhood, the residents have specific interests that bring them together based on their surroundings. These interests include items such as physical appearance, easements, and education.
Within our classroom group, First-year Composition, we have predetermined subgroups referred to as “peer groups”. The relationship between the classroom group and the peer groups is metaphorical to the relationship between a city and neighborhoods. They are derived through a predetermined demographic. These smaller communities allow a more intimate exchange on the same subjects the larger group communicated. However, the lack of personal involvement in the assignment of these groups negates the commitment necessary to grow the community.
In his definition article published in Social Work and Society, Sichling wrote, “Therefore, community participation and local associations are presumed to build community, nurture cooperative behavior, nourish shared norms and transform local institutions into more effective instruments of democracy by making them more responsive to the preferences of citizens.” Our peer groups require similar participation. Members of the community, peer group, must actively participate for the structure to succeed.
The Oxford dictionary defines “commitment” as the act of committing or dedication, or an obligation that restricts freedom of action. Commitments occur voluntarily or dictatorially. Usually, they contain both levels of involvement. Here in the classroom, we enroll in courses and majors based on our interests and dedication. These enlistments we make mandate we continue by participating in dictated assignments. As described in Critical Situations (Crowley and Stancliff 7-8), the most powerful communication comes from “a real stake in an issue.” In our case, these stakes may derive from passing-grades or societal influence of our peer groups.
As hypothesized and demonstrated by Watson and Papamarcos, “the quality of communication will directly and positively affect levels of commitment to the organization.” (Watson and Papamarcos 544.) In our classroom and peer groups, our commitment returns a direct benefit to us through our involvement in these groups but only so far as we invest in those groups. Our projects and assignments solicit cognitive responses from the same communities and are equally dependent on our commitment to those communities. Our membership in our peer group community mandates we participate to further not only our own education but also the education of the other members of our group. The level of our commitment to the group bears directly on the success of the group and our peers within that group.
The way we interact throughout our day exhibits this community and commitment integration. Our achievements directly reflect on how we apply these two definitions. I have defined requirements for success in my work environment dictated by my superiors (work production requirements). Similarly, I have levels of success dictated in my education (minimum scores for passing grades). I have social expectations applied by groups with which I engage, such as my children’s soccer teams and friends with whom I hike. I also have moral requirements for the success of my family and loved ones. Each of these commitments to communities weighs on how the other commitments influence my daily activities. I apply different levels of commitment to determine how each will affect me.
Crowley, Sharon and Michael Stancliff. Critical Situations: A Rhetoric for Writing in Communities. New York: Pearson Education, 2008. Print.
Florian, Sichling. “Community.” Social Work and Society 16 July 2008: 6(1), Glossary. Retrieved 10 September 2010, <http://www.socwork.net/2008/1/glossary/sichling>.
George W. Watson, & Steven D. Papamarcos. (2002). “Social Capital and Organizational Commitment.” Journal of Business and Psychology, 16(4), 537. Retrieved 19 September 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 352548651).