Digital technologies pose a threat to the post-Deweyian visions of how schools educate for democracy and civic participation at a number of levels. The datafication of interpersonal interactions (as the private individual self is surveilled and commodified by supra-national global technology companies) has enormous consequences for what we want young people to learn and how they ought to behave as citizens in the reconfigured power relations between the individual, the state, and the market. Indeed, questions surrounding what it means to be a citizen and what comprises the new polis in a digitalized global economy have created a distinct new challenge for the purposes of education. The digital reconfigures the nature of agency, understood as being an intrinsic right of the liberal individual person. In addition there are political dangers for democracy, for these technologies can be mobilized and exploited as the neoliberal state fragments and loses regulatory authority (exemplified by the Cambridge Analytica and “fake news” fiasco). At the same time, the accepted paradigms of the civic, juridical, and identitarian self that traditionally comprised the democratic “citizen” are being rewritten as changing privacy practices reconfigure these models of identity. What vision of educating for democracy is necessary in the early 21st century? One answer has been to focus on “critical pedagogy,” but that model of educating for full participation in democracy needs to be reworked for the digital age—especially in terms of how schools themselves need to develop an institutional and communal form of digital-social life.
In the context of increasing realizations of the fragility of democracy, the possibilities and accomplishments of youth activist projects across material and virtual spaces and sites continue to flourish. Research on this work is situated in the rich scholarly traditions of critical youth studies and critical youth literacies as well as in theories of civic engagement, public pedagogy, participatory politics, cosmopolitanism, and relational mobilities. Many youth projects draw on the resources of arts, digital media, and critical multiliteracies to participate, in material ways, in public and political life. Taking up issues such as citizenship for immigrant youth, homelessness, and poverty, young people powerfully create critical, social, and political narratives that resonate within and beyond their own communities. Theorizing this work in relation to public engagement, spatiality, and mobilities deepens our understanding of those moments when youth in community and educational sites create powerful transmediated counter-narratives about their lives and worlds—the ways they incorporate both local and global understandings to create these new forms of political participation. And the work itself underscores the need for more equitable access to various multimodal and digital resources and the importance of youth access to public and mediated spaces. Schools and educators are called to create pedagogical spaces that invite students’ subjectivities, locations, and creative uses of material resources to engage in local and larger public dialogues, counter dominant cultural ideologies, address multiple publics, and create new forms of political participation.
Rosemary Papa and Fenwick W. English
Educational leaders in many countries have come to realize that (a) many of their problems are similar to those in other nations; (b) some of those problems fall outside the boundaries of the nation-state and involve many countries; (c) not only does the problem of social, material, and political inequalities fall outside the purview of the school to resolve, but beyond basic literacy and numeracy skills, schools tend to reproduce such inequalities; and (d) an awareness of educational issues when shared and dissected can present new opportunities for the local leader. Educational Leader without Borders (ELWB) is a group of international scholars and researchers who have joined together to study and discuss their potential solutions outside the politics of the local nation-state. An urgent situation has developed as mass migrations have erupted from climate change and war (leading to failed states) and from neoliberal attacks on promoting solutions for schools, thus further eroding schools’ efficacy for children of the poor and disenfranchised. The most difficult problems are those resulting from long-standing cultural practices which are deeply embedded in the public mindset and past traditions. Misogyny is one such tradition. It begins with denying young girls access to formal schooling in many parts of the world, excluding them when menstruation begins, and following the cultural traditions that support limiting rural boys in their education. Neoliberal pursuits have erupted and expanded the chasm between those-who-have and those-who-have-not. Western education is bashed and seen as polluted by these neoliberal norms. As ELWB scholars, we wrestle with the research done on others by others as the field of education is a context-bound integration of the society within which it is embedded. The context is shaped by the history, culture, and political policies of the specific nation state which are heavily influenced especially by economic and military considerations. Global awareness of issues, we believe as educational leaders, raise the possibilities of greater local understanding and ultimately on-the-ground actions by those immediately affected: school leadership, staffs, students, families, and communities. The counternarrative for this is the one-size-fits-all educational neoliberal approach found in the growing tentacles of artificial intelligence and all of its media supports. ELWB seeks new knowledge that is enhanced by all that technology offers but is not bound by it. We believe that human interactions are steeped in promising practices, with localized actions and the belief that education offers happiness in life while supporting the planet earth. This is the goal of the ELWB.