Civic engagement is the key to a functioning democracy. As we acclimate to a digital climate, we’ll have to find more efficient ways to safeguard democratic processes, especially as even some of the biggest tech conglomerates in the world have problems with privacy breaches, disinformation and political bias.
Why and how is civic engagement for students so important in the digital age, in particular? Learning how to become civically engaged is crucial early on in a child’s education and development and continuing on at the higher education level.
For one, civic engagement helps students learn how to critically assess and collaborate with others on a larger-scale. As they learn how important civic engagement is that they can learn how to be responsible citizens who care for people on both an individual, hyperlocal and even global scale.
It also allows encourages students to inherently see themselves as agents of change. Many times kids are taught they don’t have control over themselves and the world around them, but civic engagement actively promotes the idea of imagining themselves as part of the solution to a problem, rather than passive bystanders. It’s especially critical in the digital age when
Joseph Kahne, a Professor of Education at U.C. Riverside says, “The digital revolution is really changing the ways in which politics are practiced. It’s where young people go to get information, it’s often where they get to express their viewpoints or where they enter into dialogue. It’s increasingly important that schools support young people in meetings some of the challenges that these new opportunities can present.”
For instance, there is a lot of misinformation on the internet, so it’s essential for educators to help students discern what’s a credible source, especially if it seems to undermine democratic values.
But when we link students to community-based issues and incorporate work-based learning experiences through digital resources, we can start giving students opportunities to determine how they’re going to apply the skills these thinking and soft skills in the real world.
Civic engagement gives students more of a voice and a solid foundation to grow agency and structure and expand how they relate to the world with the things they learn in class. School can be the gateway to community engagement.
Additionally, schools should start reaching out to organizations during the learning process so students can have more integrated experiences with the tools and skills they learn and use. This way both digital-minded practices can be incorporated with real life experiences.
I believe that all schools should have classes that focus on civic engagement or at least incorporate and emphasize it into their curriculums. Ultimately, students can take what they’ve learned and go above and beyond the standards learn about their communities and transform them for the better. If we teach our kids to use the digital world to connect with others for good, we’re one step closer to solving social problems in our communities and the world’s civic issues.