While traditional civic education in the United States is inextricably linked to notions of a public sphere, this paper argues that the digital era requires a reimagining of this premise. The opaque nature of digital spaces makes it difficult for young people to understand how large of an audience they are interacting with and to what extent a conversation that may feel private is rebounding across public contexts. In this conceptual paper, we (1) use semiotic squares to present publicly private and privately public as two ways to reinterpret traditional presumptions about the role of “the public” in civic education and (2) present the implications of these blended spaces for civic education and civic learning. The paper asks, what does it mean to prepare young people for interaction in the “public” sphere within our classrooms today? By drawing on a vignette of teacher practice, we articulate what civic education could be for students around the world in the 21st century.

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Ellen Middaugh, Mariah Kornbluh, and Mark Felton, Navigating Context Collapse: A Strengths-based Approach to Building Youth Civic Empowerment