Growing Democracy: Examining Children?s Civic Literacies in Presidential Election Years
Cassie Brownell

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Research Development Award

Award Year



OISE/University of Toronto

Primary Discipline

Schools have traditionally been seen as sites to foster democracy. Typically, democracy is defined as civic participation in elections and other formal government processes. In this study, by contrast, I build on recent reconsiderations of civic participation to explore civic literacies, a concept I use to account for the sociopolitical identities that individuals and groups articulate using digitally-mediated literacy and collective activism. Although there is a renewed interest in civics within educational circles, much of the research focuses on young adults close to voting age, despite that children form politically relevant social identities early on. Thus, more longitudinal research examining how children develop long- lasting preferences, affiliations, and habits of civic participation is needed. This work is especially critical in politically polarized U.S. society. This qualitative study is among the first to trace children's civic literacies within schools across time, age, and political landscapes. By closely examining children's writing, action, and talk, this longitudinal study will consider how children engage with wider discourses and how they (re)produce political rhetoric. Findings will yield insights about how the civic life of children develops and broaden possibilities for teachers' pedagogical practices and children's civic literacies within schools.
About Cassie Brownell
Cassie J. Brownell is an Assistant Professor of Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning in the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. Framed by her experiences as an early childhood educator in post-Katrina New Orleans and her role as an international research partner for the MakEY Project, Dr. Brownell uses feminist and poststructural modes of inquiry to critically consider how education might become more inclusive of children's cultural, linguistic, and modal ways of knowing. In taking an interdisciplinary approach to her work, Dr. Brownell bridges scholarship from literacy and social studies education alongside critical childhood studies to examine children's sociopolitical development and civic participation. Dr. Brownell's prior research has been funded by the International Literacy Association, the National Council of Teachers of Education, and Canada's Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Additionally, her scholarship has been recognized with awards from the American Educational Research Association's Writing & Literacies SIG and the Language and Social Processes SIG. Samples of her research can be found in the pages of the Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy, Curriculum Inquiry, The Reading Teacher, and Language Arts. Originally from Montana, Dr. Brownell earned a B.A. in Social Welfare and Justice Studies from Marquette University before she obtained a Master of Elementary Education (K-6) from the University of Notre Dame. She received her doctorate in Curriculum, Instruction, and Teacher Education from Michigan State University in 2018.

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