Aberrations or Safe Havens? Civics and Schools in the Digital Age



Opinions concerning the effects of digital and social media on the civic sphere have tended to swing between euphoria and despair: initially depicted as a democratizing force due to their capacity to allow diverse groups of citizens to organize towards shared causes, the focus has shifted to how such technologies contribute to a fragmented, polarized and contentious public sphere. In this chapter, I outline these changes and examine how they informed research on the civic role of schools. Specifically, I argue that within the optimistic view schools were (implicitly) conceptualized as artificial aberrations from the natural and authentic ways in which children develop into civic actors in digital contexts, whereas the pessimistic view perceived schools as safe havens—sites for the cultivation of skills needed to navigate the „digital jungle“. Rather than arguing for one approach over the other, I identify their shared assumptions, which shape and limit current debates concerning civics and schools. First, the emphasis on rapid and extreme shifts in modes of civic participation position schools as constantly lacking to keep up with external developments. Second, the dichotomous view of schools and the civic sphere results in presenting schools as an artificial counter to the natural development of technologically-mediated civic participation. Finally, schools are commonly conceptualized as sites for the development of skills needed for civic participation, while largely overlooking their normative role.


Social media Civic education Participation Public sphere Schools 


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Copyright information

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, ein Teil von Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EducationBen-Gurion University of the NegevBe’er SchevaIsrael

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