Reid Locklin’s new book examines different teaching approaches to help students become more civically engaged. Photo by Maria Montemayor

Teaching youth engagement

By  Maria Montemayor, Youth Speak News
  • December 25, 2015

While there is evidence that youth are less civically engaged than the general population, Reid Locklin says it’s merely that they are differently engaged.

“If you ask young people how they are engaged, and this is true for my students as well, they are volunteering a lot, but not always inclined to vote,” said Locklin, a professor at Toronto’s University of St. Michael’s College. “And so my view is that those are both forms of civic engagement but if this never connects to that then we have a problem.”

While conducting research for his new book, Teaching Civic Engagement, Locklin found that today’s young people are differently engaged. The book, which he co-edited with Forrest Clingerman, will be released on Jan. 4.

Locklin said the book helps professors think about how their work with their students is contributing to the public good. He collaborated with religion professors from Canada and the United States to examine the best ways to encourage students to become engaged in the civic sphere.

“Whatever we do in the classroom will prepare students in a certain sense to contribute to society, whether they are Catholic or not,” he said. “Learning about Hinduism, in and of itself, will prepare students to be better participants in society.”

Teaching students critical thinking is enough to help students become more civically engaged, but Locklin said it also has to do with habit formation. He said he likes to incorporate practical experiences in his courses because it allows his students to get to know their community and learn outside the classroom.

Locklin teaches a third-year Inter-religious Dialogue and Practice course, and assigns students to volunteer with a community partner that they could travel easily to. He has had students work at Baycrest, a long-term care facility with a significant number of Jewish clients. He has also had students work at the Intercultural Dialogue Institute (IDI) and at the Multi-faith Centre.

“In terms of community-engaged learning there are two styles. One is a project-based style, engineering does a great job with it,” he said. “I was more interested in building relationships... In my case, it was work that was supposed to cross boundaries of religious difference.”

Locklin said students have a desire to encounter difference and go beyond their comfort zone. His courses focus heavily on building relationships beyond the world students are familiar with.

“I think the great danger that we face in terms of civic engagement right now is really privatization. That our lives are demarcated as purely private. I think religion is one force that says, no, our lives are never just private,” he said.

“Social media has been attacked as tending to encourage people to retreat to more private realities. Social media has also become an effective way for people to organize.”

Even though Locklin facilitates community engagement through his courses, he does not believe it is necessarily the duty of a professor to encourage civic engagement to his or her students.

“I think it’s the duty of universities to think about how they contribute to the public sphere,” he said. “I would be reluctant to say that should be the preoccupation of every professor at the university. I think it would be a problem at the university if the question is never raised.”

(Montemayor, 23, is a graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Toronto.)

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.