Bennett on Youth Engagement: A Tale of Two Paradigms
3.26.07 | (EDITOR’S NOTE: This entry is part of a recent focus on conferences by Spotlight. The paper at the bottom was presented at OECD in Florence, Italy this March. MacArthur’s Connie Yowell also attended the event.)
Those who talk about youth disengagement tend to base their concerns on traditional models of citizenship that emphasize duty and obligation. The disengagement paradigm puts the focus on youth deficits in conventional political activities such as voting and being reasonably well informed about public affairs.
Meanwhile, other observers talk about impressive engagement among young people. They seem generally unaware or disbelieving that there is a real political disconnection among young citizens (or if there is, the fault lies with government and the news media), as they put the focus on healthy levels of community volunteering, and an explosion in lively sites of online engagement with local and global issues.
The two perspectives often talk past each other with somewhat disjointed questions: Should we consider protest behaviors in games such as World of Warcraft, or petitions by music fans to record companies about treatment of favorite artists as forms of civic engagement? Should we worry that many young people have negative attitudes about politics and display little information about current events? These turn out to be interesting and hotly contested questions among experts, as illustrated in this amazing online discussion among more that two dozen of the leading scholars and practitioners in the field of youth engagement and digital media.
For a discussion of why it is important to resolve these competing paradigms, and how we might think about doing it, here is a short paper that I have written to get us started.
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