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Abstract

This report focuses on the role of education in improving civic learning for youth.  We ask two questions:  What knowledge and skills serve as a basis for models of civic learning for young Canadians?  What changes to learning processes are needed to encourage youth participation in democratic processes?  To answer these questions, the report examines the various perspectives represented in the literature on youth and civic literacy.  It also offers the various perspectives of Ottawa students and teachers in relation to government curriculum to provide a snapshot of the state and potential of civic learning within secondary schools.  We synthesize this research to identify youth trends in civic participation, possible reasons for political disengagement, and the kind of citizenship knowledge and skills provided for students historically and currently.  In so doing, we argue that civic learning is primarily characterized by procedural knowledge and compliant codes of behaviour that do not envelope students in collective action for systemic understandings of political issues.  We contend that schools need support for renewing efforts that put social justice citizenship at the heart of student learning and the school environment.  Educational programs for civic literacy should teach students to make informed, active choices about policies that affect their lives and to engage with their community in efforts for social change.

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