Monday, June 8, 2009

What does it mean to educate "good citizens?"

One of the purposes of education in elementary schools that we discussed in class is citizenship education. But just what does "citizenship education" mean? And what does it mean to be a "good" citizen? The authors of our textbook say that citizenship education "should include developing affective attachments to this nation and its democratic heritages," (p. 5) and they mention the importance of actions such as saluting the flag and pledging allegiance. Is this what being a citizen in a democracy is all about? Or is there more? How would you approach citizenship education with young children in an age-appropriate way?


  1. What does it mean to be a "good citizen"?

    A good citizen can be interpreted as one who has a level of appreciation for people, places, and those things that are made available and are accessible to him in this country. It is an understanding or sensitivity to differences in culture, history, traditions and adherence to the laws of this land. Without laws there would be anarchy. Laws are put in place to protect, guide, and defend our freedom.

    How would I approach citizenship education with young children in an age appropriate way?

    My understanding is that children learn this citizen approach at a young age. A young child entering kindergarten is entering a world within this own world. There are children of the same age, but yet different, they speak another language, and they dress differently, and are exposed to cultural traditions. Within this classroom the teacher provides an array of teaching aids such as books, desks, supplies, opportunities to explore and share, to enhance the learning experience.. It is within the classroom setting that children learn how to live with one another with respect, and appreciate those things afforded to them that will provide for them a greater opportunity to succeed.

  2. When I think of good citizens, I think of fascist societies where people are taught to fall in line along major party lines. What did it mean to be a good citizen in Nazi Germany? What did it mean to be a good citizen in the Soviet Union? What does it mean to be a good citizen in North Korean? And what does it mean to be a good citizen today in the United States while the country is at war during an economic recession? Why do we make students rise every morning and pledge allegiance to a flag every morning?

    To me, there is an implied message in having our students salute a flag every morning while reciting that we are "one nation under God." Without even going into issues of God, pledging allegiance seems to be counterproductive for a democratic society. We are teaching our children to subjugate themselves to the nation, and implicitly learning to accept and not question its will. What did good citizenship mean during the Revolutionary War? Good citizenship, if I understood the way every history book taught me (here in the U.S), meant to reject England's rule, and accept the one of the new nation, which didn't even exit yet. Who were the good citizens during the Civil War? Who demonstrated proper citizenship during the Sixties, minorities that stayed home and fought for their civil rights or those that went to Vietnam to fight overseas?

    I guess the point I am trying to make is that citizenship is much more complicated than simply loving and respecting your nation. Because sometimes your country needs a good kick in the butt, and good citizenship requires us to do so (in my opinion). I guess I tend to feel that the way citizenship is taught is mostly propaganda because it requires the students to accept and praise the country for its accomplishments. But I also don't think students need to learn all of the bad or not so good things the country is doing or has done.

    Good citizenship to me requires being critical of the country you live in, and your role with in it. I believe in making the space and environment around me better or at least cause as little harm to it as I can. Because we humans have currently decided to divide ourselves primarily as nation-states that means your country, I exist I guess as a citizen of the United States, but the world is changing and regions are uniting and markets becoming more interdependent on each other. So that our children will also have to learn how to exist in a global society. Thus the parameters of what a good citizen will have to change because we will have to see ourselves as citizens of the world, which we already are but tend to take for granted.

    Citizenship in the way it's taught today lets us even go so far as to label other human beings as aliens. Students need to know how to follow laws particularly within certain groups/societies, but they don't need to learn to love them. In fact, they might even have to learn how to break them or change them. Imagine if Rosa Parks had never decided to break a rule. Imagine if students from all over the world, and not just in the 60's, hadn't stood up to reject what their country stood for, where would the world be, and where would we be as human beings. Maybe not here on Earth, which is where we are truly citizens of. Everything else are just labels we've used to identify and divide borders to better horde the land's resources for "our" particular group of people.

    I guess nationalism and citizenship don't have to run hand in hand, but they tend to especially in times of war and/or crisis.

  3. The meaning of good citizenship has different forms in different societies. Some might think and associate it with fascism and others with strong nationalism like for example the kind that led to the fall of the Austria-Hungary Empire.No matter what the case, we can think of patriotism that leads to the unity of our country in the times of danger. The United States of America, is a country that values democracy, and makes sure that democracy prevails in other countries as well(a great example is the second war with Iraq).
    When we we think of good citizenship, we should think of what it means to be good citizen in a democratic society.
    There is nothing wrong with reciting the pledge every morning and singing the national anthem. Our flag is the symbol of our country. The stars and stripes are there on purpose and they represent something. Therefore, our flag represents us and our country. Yes it is reminder that we have the obligations to defend our freedom if it is threatened.
    But good citizenship has more components than just saluting the flag and exercising patriotism. To be a good citizen in a democratic society, means that all of our children, regardless of their skin color and background, have the same easy access to equal education and to other unalienable rights(something that the framers of the constitution and the founding fathers unveiled).
    As a good citizens we also have an obligations, (besides being patriotic)as to pay taxes, vote, take care of poor or unfortunate, our children and elders, and most of all to build great, democratic society where everyone can be heard. We have an obligation to take care of our country; meaning that wen can't litter or pollute. As a teacher, I will teach my students to exercise all of these virtues because I know that these virtues will contribute to and make them good citizens and valuable humans in a democratic society.

  4. In the democratic world,citizenship education and "good citizen"is a choice.It reminds me when I made a vow to become an American citizen.That was a choice that I have made about 10 years ago. Looking back,where I came from was a socialism regime.The question "good citizen" was not a choice, it was given. You will become what the government wants you to be.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.