Prominent studies and opinion polls often claim that young people are disengaged from political institutions, distrustful of politicians, and disillusioned about democracy. Young People, Citizenship and Political Participation challenges these political stereotypes by asking whether young people have been contributing to or rectifying our civic deficit. In particular, it examines the role of civics education in addressing the so-called crisis of democracy. Turning away from conventional suggestions often advocated by politicians and educators that offer civics education as the solution, the book advances an alternate approach to civics – one that acknowledges the increasingly diverse ways in which young people are both engaging and disengaging politically.
1. Preface. / 2. Disengaged: young people and political disengagement in Anglo-American democracies / 3. Democracy in Crisis: are young people to blame? / 4. Civics Education: defender or divider of democracy? / 5. Different Ways, Different Domains: the everyday politics of young people / 6. Brexit, Bono, and the Entrepreneurial Self: young people’s participation as ‘global citizens’ / 7. Co-Designed: a new approach to civics and citizenship.
This is perhaps the most important book on civics education yet written. The authors deserve much praise. They highlight the need for a properly-designed civics education curriculum and, crucially, offer proposals as to how that can be achieved. This book will be of great benefit to academics and policy-makers in considering how to better engage young people with politics.
Young people across the planet are the pioneers of a new global citizenship, emerging from the margins of the nation-state and prefiguring a Democracy 2.0. This book approaches this phenomenon through a series of case-studies and theoretical reflections, that can be viewed as an observatory to the culture of youth politics (and to the politics of youth cultures) in the 21st century.
Recent decades have seen a resurgence in interest in citizenship education in many countries with, what we would have to recognise as, mixed results. This book provides a timely intervention to help readers think again about what we have been trying to do and how we have been trying to achieve it. By synthesising a range of material from within the literature on citizenship education and beyond, the authors ask us to think afresh about the challenge of citizenship education. School learning is often about the gap between what the learner already knows and can do, and what they may grasp or experience with the benefit of teaching. This volume makes a convincing case that adults have been routinely underestimating young people’s starting point and therefore miscalculating how to plan the learning. The solution they propose is radically simple, and should come naturally to teachers – talk to young people, understand their strengths and concerns and negotiate citizenship education with them, rather than impose a model on them. A deliberative process will lead to new understandings and new solutions in the context of diverse democracies and in doing so may even serve as a mechanism for democratic renewal. The authors recognise this will be challenging in reality but make a strong case for greater humility on behalf of curriculum developers in the face of young people's proven capacity to act as citizens today.
Mark Chou is an Associate Professor of Politics at the Australian Catholic University.
Jean-Paul Gagnon is an Assistant Professor of Politics at the University of Canberra.
Catherine Hartung is a Lecturer in Education Studies at the University of Otago.
Lesley Pruitt is a Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Monash University.