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A bright Nebraska idea

This sounds like a grand idea – actually two grand ideas.

The Governor’s Suite in the Nebraska Statehouse

The State of Nebraska is embarking on a three-year study of energy use in its 3,700 buildings. That kind of comprehensive benchmarking effort, partially financed by the federal government, has lots of promise in reducing both state costs and energy consumption.

But this is the part that really caught our eye: The project is designed to help both state and local government and one of the strategies is to train high school students to do energy-efficiency reviews in their own communities, so there won’t be a shortage of trained manpower as this extensive effort accelerates. They’ll use an assessment tool developed by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Business Administration.

The state has already embarked on a similar effort at wastewater treatment plants, with college interns gathering data on 82 plants.

These projects are exactly the kind of active civic learning that will draw young people into government and increase their levels of understanding about how government operates and what it can accomplish. This was a prime message of the report we wrote for The Council of State Governments: “Civic Education: A Key to Trust in Government”, which was released last month. While learning about government is important, you also need action to make it memorable and interesting. As Dick Simpson, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois, Chicago, told us, “Just a dry set of facts is not sufficient.”

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