Youth Civic Engagement is Our Responsibility to Foster
Presentation: Catherine Broom
Session C | 10:05 – 10:45 | Location: Room 308
A research project conducted with youth in seven nations with diverse experiences with democracy found that youth value both democracy and public participation in democracy. However, as has often been argued, youth’s level of civic engagement in their societies may be limited. Traditionally, scholars and the media have blamed youth for this limited participation arguing that youth are apathetic or disengaged. This research project did not find that youth were disengaged. Rather, youth pay attention to the news and make decisions about their civic participation based on their contexts and beliefs about their self efficacy. In other words, youth actively make decisions about how they will participate in their societies and to what extent. In some societies, youth do not actively participate as they view it to be dangerous to do so (in nations were voter intimidation occurs, for example) or where they feel that their actions will have little impact (due to corruption or little politician interest in youth, for instance). In other contexts, youth may choose to be more actively involved, such as in the last federal election in Canada. This paper will briefly review these findings. It will then argue that blaming youth for their lack of civic participation based on arguments such as youth apathy is not the best way to address concerns over youth civic behaviours. Rather, the blame should be placed on behaviours of adults in contexts in which youth civic engagement is limited. That is, we should be focusing our attention on how to address corrupt politicians and political behaviours of concern such as voter intimidation in some countries. In other words, the issue lies with adults and contexts, which youth are studying and making their civic decisions based on. How then, do we influence adult actions and behaviours to change youth perceptions? Public outcry through social media, discussion and media coverage and active, informed and empowered adults and teachers can lead the way to greater youth civic involvement.