priority for society.xciv Our study participants, particularly the less privileged students, pointed to the government–young citizen disconnect as a major reason for their disengagement from civic action.
Priority also needs to be given to the preparation of teachers for teaching Civics. Teacher education holds some responsibility for avoiding the complexities of political pedagogy. Furthermore, post-secondary education programs need to address teachers’ reported lack of civic knowledge and skills that may be used within the classroom. Civic literacy is not and cannot be considered a “teacher problem.” Rather, government resources, policy, societal norms and legal change influence the civic culture of schools and the citizenship role of its educators. For example, teachers from this study pointed out that they needed more time for Civics class. With respect to current course offerings, they suggested that more Politics courses be offered in the senior division or, alternatively, that Civics in Grade 10 be changed from a half-course to a full-year course.
It also seems important to reconsider what counts as civic knowledge and skills. Are there new discourses for civic knowledge that does not conform to the informal/formal political divide? Should blogging be considered a learned skill in curriculum guidelines for Civics?
Empirical research is lacking within Canada regarding pedagogical approaches that have worked for creating politically and socially just classrooms. That is not to imply that such teaching is not taking place across the country. Most research, however, comes out of the US context. This body of work provides methods that teachers can and have implemented in their classrooms. Examples include providing activist role models, bringing politicians into the classroom, having the school participate in real-world projects and building communities of support, from administrators to parents, for discussing controversial issues.xcv It is this last example on which Canadian researchers should focus future empirical study. How can schools and their communities work together to address what Diana Hess calls the “controversies of controversial issues?”xcvi
Political theorist Sheldon Wolin observed that citizens in a democracy need to be taught to “know and value what it means to participate in and be responsible for the care and improvement of our common and collective life.”xcvii Education for democratic and political participation requires engagement with just such ideas.