Tuesday, November 16, 2021

From Our class at Harvard Graduate School of Education: Civics Education and Youth Participatory Politics

By Dean Graziano

Susan Gable, izzit.org’s Director of Education, and I just wrapped up a wonderful class at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (titled above). One of our first prompts was:

How might you apply what you have learned to help students generate questions to explore social issues and civic engagement more broadly? Consider and share some of the topics your students might want to explore.

The importance of preparing the next generation of students to be engaged civic actors could never be greater. In fact, the Wilson Center conducted a study that 2 of 3 American cannot pass the US Citizenship test (USCIS). If students are not cognizant (or interested in knowing the power of the individual and concepts of self-government, what they need to know in being an active citizen and an awareness of their rights, to know when you can say enough and respond in a civil fashion to remedy) they will never know the true power of our Constitution. Furthermore, most high school’s mission statements “declare” that we as educators have an onus to prepare them. For example, a recent school where I was an Administrator:

“"The XXXXXXXX New Hampshire School District provides a personalized experience for all students to be responsible, and contributing citizens, who can read, write, communicate, problem-solve and calculate with clarity.”

Contributing citizens transcends beyond just the school community, beyond local, state, and even national communities. Now how do we get them there?

I have always tried to utilize the Socratic method in my classroom as a way to create an open and inviting dialogue between myself and students. Through this method, I can delve deeper and probe the nitty-gritty opinions, point-of-view, and beliefs shaping the student’s response. So much emphasis is placed on educators to “infuse” critical thinking in their lessons and the Socratic method allows this.

Some basic questions I recently posed that I believe are foundational questions included:

· Why did some of the Framers resist the idea of a bill of rights? Why did some insist it was needed? Which group do you agree with? Explain your position.

· What is a Republic and why is that in the Pledge of Allegiance (and not democracy)?

The 2 frameworks discussed were the C3 NCSS Framework and the 10-question framework by Jenkins.

Certainly, the two frameworks have commonalities such as:

1. Peer-based, whereby a participant may utilize the collective experience, background, and training via feedback to shape ideas/actions.

2. Interactive - we are far beyond the traditional four walls of the school. Students may participate and are doing so with the power of an ever-changing technology jump. Being part of social media grouping such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like, afford them exponentially larger platforms on which to share ideas than just the classroom.

3. Collaboration & Communication- Students today are savvy and many create podcasts, blogs and other ways to share their ideas, opinions, and point-of-view.

The C3 NCSS Framework centers on an inquiry arc, in short, a way for students to frame the path in which students learn (Ask questions, analyze evidence, apply concepts, take action). As inquiry is the process for seeking more knowledge and what’s needed to help find answers, it also includes deeper dives of acquiring more and more information. The second part of C3 is the investigatory process of analyzing and assessing the problem towards conclusion.

The 10-question framework by Jenkins seems to be primarily focused on the technology - internet and media towards the student inquiry and investigatory process. However, some inequities may arise such as not having access to technology, internet, etc. Finally, the latter seems to me to provide more pre-conceived notions upon the student, as students will invariably be “participating” in like-minded groups (where they communicate and collaborate) thus stifling inquiry into not like-minded areas to explore. Also, the fear they may be satisfied with the answer/solutions, rather than delve deeper for explanation or being complacent as, “good enough for me.”

Now more than ever it is incumbent upon educators to have students truly disseminate information, devoid of filters and one-sided information. To truly participate (take part in an action or endeavor), one must analyze both sides of an argument, draw conclusions and prove their hypothesis - then they’re truly participatory and engaged!