What Kind of Citizen?

What examples of citizenship education do you remember from your K-12 schooling? What types of citizenship (e.g. which of the three types mentioned in the article) were the focus? Explore what this approach to the curriculum made (im)possible in regards to citizenship.

In terms of citizenship education from grades K-12, I can remember many examples. In elementary years I remember being taught manners, how to be kind and to treat others with respect. We were taught “sharing is caring” and often we were rewarded for good behaviour. I can remember specifically one time on the playground asking a someone if they wanted to play with my friends and me, then later inside the classroom, my teacher pulled me aside and told me what I did on the playground was very nice and she gave me a sticker. Once in high school, we were strongly encouraged to get involved with the community and volunteer to organize events in the school for other students. Sometimes we would take afternoons off and do a bottle drive or help set up for town barbeques.

Of the three kinds of citizenship (the personally responsible citizen, the participatory citizen, or the justice-oriented citizen) the focus in my K-12 schooling was a mixture of the personally responsible citizen and the participatory citizen. In elementary years the focus was mostly on the personally responsible citizen. The article describes the personally responsible citizen as one who “acts responsibly in his/her community by, for example, picking up litter, giving blood, recycling, obeying laws, and staying out of debt” (p. 3) In elementary a lot of the focus is trying to teach students to get along with each other and to obey the rules of society, especially in the school setting. We were taught to sit up straight, not talk unless we put up our hand, ask to go to the bathroom and to be respectful to our teacher, among many other things.

Once in high school, the focus shifted towards wanting us to become more involved with our community which aligns with the description of the participatory citizen, which is “those who actively participate in the civic affairs and the social life of the community at local, state, and national levels.” (p.4) At this age, they encouraged us to join the Student Representative Council (SRC), to run track and field for the elementary kids, and to volunteer in community events. They also helped us do things for the less fortunate like less eating or volunteering with kids for disabilities, or making campaigns for Bell Lets Talk Day. Our teachers saw these as ways to build us as students and get a taste of what it was like to organize events. A lot of us took pride in these events and it became a tradition. For me, volunteering at the Jean Vanier swim is what helped me decide to send in my application for education at the U of R.

These approaches both made it “(im)possible” in terms of citizenship for us students to look at things through a critical eye. We would more than happy to start a campaign for mental health, for example,  titled “let’s end the stigma” but it never really went further than that. We never examined why there is such a stigma surrounding mental health. We never thought about why we had to volunteer to help feed the hungry, we just did it. The article mentions that the intention is not to criticize the principals of these citizens but that they alone do not fix the problems of our society. Both the personally responsible and the participatory citizen are very individually focused and do not address larger scale issues which is something the justice-oriented citizen does. A tandem of all thee types of citizens is perhaps what we should be striving for in education.



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