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Group Discussion: Why does citizenship matter?

with 4 comments

Does it even matter?

Citizenship describes a way of life in which people pursue shared goals for society, recognize limits to government powers and participate in political processes; where people are entitled to pursue economic well-being and loyalty and solidarity among people is nurtured. A collective sense of citizenship takes account of diversity and protects the legal and human rights of each person especially members of minority groups. As democratic societies evolve, so does their understanding of citizenship.

Citizenship is the legal status of belonging to a state, but equally important citizenship also is about how we live together in our communities and the larger society. Schools are essential to the ongoing development of democratic ways of life. They must educate each generation in the ways of citizenship. Educating citizens is a core purpose of public education, one that is pursued explicitly through curriculum studies and implicitly by providing students opportunities to practice the skills and of democratic participation. The goals of citizenship education at any particular time usually reflect the prevailing societal views about the nature of citizenship. As concerns arise about important societal issues – for example, racism, environmental sustainability, social cohesion, inclusion, political participation – we look to schools to educate the young in ways that will strengthen our social fabric. But such expectations are never without contention. In this period of rapid global integration the tension between education goals of benefit to the wider society may conflict with the private goals of individual families.

Thoughts?

Post them in the comments…

Bonus: Guess where the quote is from.

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Written by canasian

January 17, 2008 at 9:21 am

4 Responses

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  1. Okay, I couldn’t guess where the quote was from, so I googled it–it’s from the Canadian Education Association! Figures…

    When I was younger I associated citizenship and education with the Citizenship in the _______ merit badges in the scouting program, and hence with little delight. It was just such an overt attempt at trying to integrate us into the community/nation/world that it kinda turned me off. Plus, scouts was on Saturday mornings during X-Men. Write a letter to a senator? Ummm, okay, but that’s what mad old people do. Regular folks work things out other ways.

    That’s where the implicit value of education comes in. As we learn more we see how things affect us and we tend to get more involved on the grassroots level. Especially when we’re seeing the world through the lens of the gospel. That tends to add value to all our interpersonal relationships, and it’s much easier to be involved when you care.

    That said, I don’t think that wider societal goals will conflict too heavily with private goals because people will always be pushing their own agendas. In our modern world where all you need is a connection to the internet to start a revolution, it’s far easier to hear and be heard.

    But where do schools come into play?

    jr4d

    January 26, 2008 at 6:11 pm

  2. I don’t know how many other people share this belief, but I think of public education as a vehicle to not merely disseminate information amongst our youth, but to, perhaps more importantly, teach children how to lead happy and productive lives within the context of a social environment.

    As an example, how many of us remember the content of our ninth grade life science class? How much really, do we remember each of the specific lessons in Health or AP English? I would be surprised to see how many people kept their notes and use them to refer to in their higher educational pursuits. I think that children/students take away something much different than what we as a nation assess. I think students by/large take with them study habits and skills developed to attain new knowledge and how to apply the knowledge that they have. I think students retain things that are simple to retain and are valuable to them in the real world. Hence, the topic of citizenship.

    I think citizenship education is a very thinly veiled term for character education. There are few places that can help students to learn about a diverse world and then experience part of it through interactions with people of different belief systems and values. As we as a society have ‘inalienable human rights’ I believe that there are innate human values that we desire in our communities. I believe that schools can be an effective place for students to learn such values and skills and apply them. A school is a microcosm of the pluralistic environment that is America. Each generation needs to learn how to function well, holding individual values while respecting the values of others. It is skills like these learned while debating over Chaucer or Pythagoras that truly benefit students in the long run and help them to lead happy and productive lives.

    canasian

    January 28, 2008 at 4:05 pm

  3. I like the idea of looking to schools to “strengthen our social fabric” a lot. In many cases, I think that’s the only place children are going to learn anything about the country in which they live. It’s idealistic to think that politics and world affairs are dinner table conversations in most American homes. This quote produces an image in my mind. I wish that as a public school child, I could have walked daily into a classroom where a teacher said “Kids, a volcano blew up in Columbia last night. What do you think should be done?” or, “kids, Japan and Greenpeace are playing battleship in the Antarctic Ocean because of whaling. What would you do…?” I would hope for some national questions too. This kind of activity would suggest to children that they adopt the perspective that they live in a democratic country and on a globalized planet that are not acted upon by chance as much as it is by individuals. That awareness is the foundation of well informed and active citizens.

    On a note about US education right now, I think the opposite is happening. I’m hoping for a classroom perspective that looks outward to the entire world. I’m seeing a classroom perspective that looks to test scores. As Jon said to me, we’re competing with Japan for math scores. How meaningless and boring! I mean, sure, that’s cool when the newspaper says “America is smarter than Japan by this one measurement”, for about a day. That’s not very motivating. But if I were a junior in high school in 1969 and my math teacher said “Class, this summer, calculus took America to the moon. Get out your derivatives”, I would study! The way to have more productive and commendable citizens is to teach a perspective of looking outward and upward in schools.

    Another note, the quote ends by mentioning the tension between societal goals and individual goals. Dumb. You don’t have to teach kids how they should vote to give them the perspective I’m talking about. Quit the cop-outs! Just teach them to look out the window.

    aub dog

    January 28, 2008 at 4:52 pm

  4. Citizenship: a legally recognized subject or national of a state or commonwealth, either native or naturalized. First things first, I find that the lofty use of the word “citizenship” outside of its root definition only seems to render the term useless. Or as C.S. Lewis once said, “When a word ceases to be a term of description and becomes merely a term of praise, it no longer tells you facts about the object: it only tells you the speaker’s attitude toward the object.” Lewis explained this reasoning further relating a story regarding the word “gentleman.” He said, “The word gentleman originally meant something recognizable; one who had a coat of arms and some landed property. When you called someone ‘a gentleman’ you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a fact. If you said he was not a ‘gentleman’ you were not insulting him, but giving information. There was no contradiction in saying that John was a liar and a gentleman; any more than there now is in saying that James is a fool and an M.A. But then there came people who said–so rightly, charitably, spiritually, sensitively, so anything but usefully–‘Ah, but surely the important thing about a gentleman is not the coat of arms and the land, but the behavior…They meant well. To be honorable and courteous and brave is of course a far better thing than to have a coat of arms. But it is not the same thing. Worse still, it is not a thing everyone will agree about. To call a man ‘a gentleman’ in this new, refined sense, becomes, in fact, not a way of giving information about him, but a way of praising him: to deny that he is ‘a gentleman’ becomes simply a way of insulting him…As a result, gentleman is now a useless word. We had lots of terms of approval already, so it was not needed for that use; on the other hand if anyone…wants to use it in its old sense, he cannot without explanations. It has been spoiled for that purpose.” So it is with the word “citizenship.” What our educational system needs is a good re-introduction to the classic. While many fields have benefited from “progress” and further advancements in thought, training in character seems to have been pushed out of black and white to gray. In an effort to become more cosmopolitan we have in fact limited our ability to differentiate, to describe, and thus teach. If you cannot adequately describe what character is, how then can you teach one to have character? If the word merely describes your position or preference, then sadly you have rendered the word useless. Oh yes and as far as the merit badges go… I wrote to my congressman about the quality of school lunches at my middle school and wouldn’t you know a full investigation was launched shortly thereafter. It was quite the shocker to be called to the principle’s office with my mother in regards to a letter from the senate. Sometimes the system does work.

    jaloha22

    January 30, 2008 at 11:19 am


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