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Journalism requires civic engagement


As we start the new school year, we need to remind ourselves that journalism is civic engagement. I have been thinking about this for some time because journalism is a discipline that requires more than reading the book, completing a FIB (fill in he blank) sheet and then taking a test. Rather, journalism requires that students fully engage in the discipline to learn it.

I believe journalism is a global discipline because it incorporates many skills found in other disciplines. It is a discipline that uses all 21st century skills in tandem as defined by Partnership for 21st Century Skills “critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation…” As I see it, journalism, is that one foundational class that provides writing skills, technology savvy, as well as the P21 concepts. It is LIVE learning, not traditional BOOK learning and that is why so many principals struggle with it because they are not in a place where they understand the engagement in learning that journalism provides for students. This global learning model requires student ownership and not teacher ownership of learning.

Moving students from teacher ownership of learning to student ownership of learning is difficult because students have been programmed to do as the teacher says instead of exploring new ideas, which is what we really want in education.

Over the years, as my students learned to move from the book to really learning, I found that I became a better teacher by letting them OWN their learning because their brains stretched much more. However, that was difficult for several administrators because they could not SEE me teaching.  I have always thought that peculiar, because, in my principal certification training, I was taught to look at how the students were learning though the teaching.  Perhaps we need to reteach principals to look at students’ growth over time.  They also need to look at how journalism students actually engage in the wider world though civic engagement.  We practice and practice for a football game, but we rarely provide opportunities for students to practice civic engagement because we are afraid what students will learn and publish.

I have created my personal  definition of civic engagement: “Taking action that provides solutions for identifiable public concerns for the greater good of the individual and collective stakeholders in the wider community.”

If I can help one student take an action through writing that provides some greater good for the wider community, that means my students have LEARNED journalism and they OWN their learning.

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