Social Norms and Education
Developing this generation’s civic literacy is vital to maintaining and strengthening the foundation of democracy. There is an urgent need to improve civic education and promote civic literacy, knowledge, and engagement among today’s college students. At the same time, higher education institutions are under rising pressure to increase the number and variety of online courses. In the midst of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this pressure has become a mandate at institutions across the United States and worldwide. What does this mean for civic literacy and skill development? Can civic literacy, skills, and engagement be promoted in 100% online courses, even in the midst of a social distancing campaign that requires students to stay largely confined to their homes?
Many civic educationists emphasises that these goals can, indeed, be advanced, even under these dire circumstances such as Covid-19. We explain how a menu-based approach to civic literacy that we have used to get students in online courses out into their communities can be adapted quickly and easily to promote civic literacy and engagement from behind a keyboard, computer screen, tablet, or smartphone. Elizabeth Bennion and Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan.
Democracy can survive only as strong democracy, secured not by great leaders but by competent, responsible citizens. Effective dictatorships require great leaders. Effective democracies need great citizens…. And citizens are certainly not born, but made as a consequence of civic education and political engagement in a free polity. (Barber, 1984, p. xvii)
What are Social Norms?
According to UNICEF as a first approximation, a social norm is what people in some group believe to be normal in the group, that is, believed to be a typical action, an appropriate action, or both (Paluck and Ball 2010). The actions of an individual range from the highly independent (like taking one’s purse on the way out the door in the morning), to the dependent (listening to a radio show after learning from an acquaintance that it is entertaining,) to the highly interdependent (each driving on the right side of the road because everyone else does). A social norm is held in place by the reciprocal expectations of the people within a reference group. Because of the interdependence of expectation and action, social norms can be stiffly resistant to change. 8 Development thinking has tended to understand individual actions of programmatic interest as being independent; or as being one-way dependent, whereby one person’s action depends on others’, as in the diffusion of innovation. However, there are human actions where what one does depends on what others do, and what others do depends on what one does (many-way interdependence).