Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies

Facebook as a Nation-Wide Civic Education Classroom Listening to the Voices of Egyptian Secondary School Students

Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies

Facebook as a Nation-Wide Civic Education Classroom Listening to the Voices of Egyptian Secondary School Students

Article excerpt

Abstract

If established democracies can not flourish without democratic citizens, societies in transition to democracy are much more in need for democratic citizenship. Given the weak role of the Egyptian formal education system in preparing citizens for their roles in a democracy, that the author documented in a pervious study, he now makes use of the focus group method to identify the role of Facebook use in non-formal civic learning among a sample of general and commercial secondary school students, through listening to students' experiences. The study found that civic learning outcomes of secondary school students are now very much better than they were in 2005. Students' experiences showed that Facebook use is crucial to their civic learning. Most importantly, the Facebook was found to blur the differences in civic learning outcomes between general and technical secondary school students. Just as the Facebook helped the "Facebook revolution" of January 25, 2011 to succeed, it is now contributing to a greater revolution in children's and young people's political culture and civic learning.

Keywords: facebook, civic learning/education, citizenship education, secondary school students, Egypt.

INTRODUCTION

At last, Egypt rebelled for freedom and is currently on its "future map" for building its democratic state. The constitution is being modified, and parliamentary and presidential elections will follow. At last, the Arab peoples -or at least some of them- are on their way to join democratic societies, a fact that refutes the argument adopted by some authors stating that Arabs are exception to the democratization movements spreading throughout the world (e.g. Wright, 1996).

However, rapture of the moment should not make us forget that democracy is not irreversible, if really established. As societies move to democracy, they can also turn back to despotism. Democracy is not just a political arrangement. It also assumes a democratic society. Even well-designed institutions are not enough. A well-ordered polity requires citizens equipped with the appropriate knowledge, skills, and traits of character (Galston, 2001, p. 217). Democracy is, therefore, dependent and contingent upon citizens or in the words of Sir Bernard Crick (2008, cited in Print & Lange, 2012, p. 1) "democracy depends on all of us: the price of liberty is not just 'eternal vigilance', as Abraham Lincoln said, but eternal activity".

Yet, people are not born equipped with the facts and responsibilities associated with democratic citizenship. Although people are born free, according to the law of nature, they need to acquire freedom and learn how to practice it responsibly. In the words of Alexis de Toqueville, "habits of the heart," that's the dispositions that are necessary to nurture the democratic ethos, are not inherited, but must be consciously acquired generation after another, by means of "apprenticeship of liberty" which he considers the most difficult form of apprenticeship that all democracies need (Barber, 1997, p. 85). In the same vein, John Dewey contends that "democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife" (Jamieson, 2013, p. 65). With such ideas in mind, the founding fathers of the American nation advocated public education.

Thus, public education as a whole emerged as an answer to the question of preparing children for democracy and citizenship in a democratic society. In a democracy, citizens must be literate, cognizant of the institutions of their society, and capable of participating in the political life. With democracy and its institutions and inherent culture getting more complicated, literacy in itself proved to be insufficient for competent citizens. So educational systems adopted some form of formal education of citizenship qualities, whether in separate subjects under such titles as civic education, education for citizenship or education for democracy, or integrated in other relevant subjects. …

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