Eric Gioia wants his students in the Macaulay seminar Shaping the Future of New York City to see why every citizen should be involved in politics. “You don’t have to be a politician to participate in democracy,” he pointed out. “The stakes are too big for us to be bystanders while others lead.”
He should know. Eric Gioia was 28 when he took office as a New York City council member from Queens. He passes along what he learned from his own and others’ political experience to inspire Macaulay students. “I want them to walk away with confidence in their convictions. Being young doesn’t mean your opinion is not valid—as long as the opinion is supported by facts and technical argument.”
Supporting opinions with research and reasoning is a big part of the framework Eric teaches Macaulay sophomores. “The framework is based on intellectual rigor,” Eric noted. “The process is the same no matter your field.”
The process relies on questions: What are the facts? What is our solution? Has that solution been tried before, and what happened?
“I teach [students] to think anew,” said Eric. “If you weren’t weighed down by a lot of historical and political baggage, how would you do it?”
Armed with questions and carefully reasoned answers, students collaborate to propose practical solutions to the city’s biggest problems. Recent student projects included exploring a ban on registration of combustion engine cars in the city; a proposed overhaul of public education to provide more instructional time; and a pilot program to provide Costco memberships to food stamp recipients.
“I love watching students realize that they have something to say, and it’s valid, and they can strengthen their argument,” said Eric. “Then they realize that they can make change.”