We All Have Stories That Are Meaningful: Critical Civic Engagement in an Urban Classroom

Jon J Schmidt


This paper explores a proposed pedagogical framework—critical civic engagement—applied in a large diverse urban high school. Critical civic engagement suggests that the return of civic education to American schooling is not simply about providing civics for all students, but that civic education, particularly among marginalized urban high school students, must engage lived experience, develop critical thought, and facilitate informed civic action. The author proposes that implementation of a critical civic engagement framework can lead to positive outcomes in student civic identity development. Using teacher interviews, classroom observations, and a student focus group in order to understand how critical civic engagement is enacted in an urban context, this qualitative, phenomenological study of an AP Government classroom examines how a teacher and her students experience the learning process and the extent to which students develop a stronger sense of civic identity. The author finds evidence that as students engage issues that are important to them and their families, critically examine political systems, and act in collaboration with their peers, they experience growth in a sense of civic purpose and political efficacy.


Civic Education; Civic Identity; Urban Education

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