The real problem with our civics instruction: Not enough focus on social media

The real problem with our civics instruction: Not enough focus on social media
Preparing for life lessons. (Image via Santa Maria Times)

[Ed. – Actually, civics is another of many matters for which regurgitatable facts are, in fact, an irreducible prerequisite — if we don’t want to end up destroying ourselves.  No one should participate in politics who doesn’t know there are nine justices on the Supreme Court.  Notice how, when they do, they end up involved in agitation activities, heedless of the consequences, rather than developing an investment in ordered liberty. Emphasis added.]

We need to make civics lessons more meaningful to students, Dubé said, “by putting them in the center of the action.”

Others push that idea even further, using digital media to help kids get involved with issues in their communities.  Joseph Kahne, an education professor at Mills College in Oakland, California, is a principal investigator for the Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) research network, which studies young people’s use of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other online platforms to share information, debate, and mobilize on social and political issues.

“Why are we teaching democracy like a game show?” Kahne asked in a recentEducation Week commentary, criticizing several states’ plans to make the American citizenship test a graduation requirement. The test asks questions such as “How many justices are on the Supreme Court of the United States?” Real civics education shouldn’t be regurgitating facts, Kahne argues. It should empower young people to speak up and take part in civic life, and technology is key to that effort. …

A year ago, after [Ronye] Cooper’s computer science teacher persuaded her to attend her first hackathon—a marathon coding session in which teams build software and hardware products—she realized that code could make tools to help her school and community, but she didn’t see many people like her, especially other women of color, who could code. So, Cooper started a girls coding club at Castlemont.

In December 2014, the coding club ventured to Palo Alto for a public safety hackathon. It was just weeks after protests and rioting swept through Ferguson, Missouri, following the police shooting death of an unarmed black teenager, and days after other protests erupted over police killing unarmed men in New York City and Phoenix. The girls from Castlemont programmed an app called Copwatch that Cooper describes as “a Yelp for cops,” with which people could post details of their interactions with police via smartphone, and link those stories to digital pins on a city map.  [Because, of course, NO ONE has ever misused Yelp to heap public abuse and threats on someone for no good reason. – Ed.]

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