Civic Education and the Making of Citizens in the Digital Age

By Diana Owen

This research examines the extent to which junior high and high school civic education instills in citizens the propensity to attend to political media. It explores if and how secondary schools are preparing young people to follow and actively engage in politics through traditional and digital media over the life course. The paper addresses the questions: To what extent does civic education in secondary schools encourage people to attend to politics via traditional and new/social media? Are particular classroom instructional methods more or less conducive to students developing the propensity to seek political information and engage in politics through media? Does participation in extracurricular activities influence the use of media for politics? Even in the new media era, traditional media, in particular television, remain prominent sources of political information for many people. This research takes into account television, print newspapers, and radio as forms of traditional media. It also explores the use of new media, such as Internet news sites, political websites, and blogs for monitoring politics as well as social media, including Facebook, Twitter, email, and video sharing sites for political engagement. The study finds that traditional modes of civics instruction, such as lecture and textbook learning, prevail even as technology has been advancing. Active instructional methods are the most effective in conveying digital civic competencies.

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