Throughout my education I experienced varying amount of citizenship education. I remember in the older grades learning how to vote and the importance of exercising your democratic right. We learned that if a certain group does not normally vote, then the political parties will not worry about pleasing them.
In the younger elementary years I learned the importance of helping my fellow classmates. We would be rewarded if we did nice things for others by getting prizes at the end of the year.
Every year in elementary school, each grade would get a section of town and we would pick up the garbage. This taught us about environmental citizenship and taking care of the land around us.
There are different types of citizenship and some of the types are often more focused on. In “What Kind of Citizen? The Politics of Educating for Democracy” Joel Westheimer and Joseph Kahne discuss three types of citizens. These include the personally responsible citizen, the participatory citizen, and the justice orientated citizen.
One type of citizen is the “personally responsible citizen”. These citizens are responsible, caring, and compassionate. They participate in their community through activities like, picking up litter, donating blood and so on. This is the most common vision of citizenship that is promoted in schools. It teaches the students to fulfill both social and civic responsibility.
In some of my classes in high school I needed to have volunteer hours for an assignment. This is an example of the personally responsible citizen. I was learning to help others and be compassionate and hard working.
Other examples of personally responsible citizen education I experienced include some of the scenarios mentioned above. These include picking up garbage, learning to vote and learning to treat my classmates with respect.
Another type of citizen is the “participatory citizen”. This type of citizen participates in civic affairs and the social aspect of the community. Educational programs that want to develop participatory citizens tend to teach students about the government and other community organizations.
When I was in high school, I was involved in the Student Leadership Committee. We organized food drives and other fundraising events throughout the school year. This is an active form of being involved in community organizations and represents a participatory citizen.
The third type of citizen is the “justice orientated citizen”. This is often the type of citizen that is thought of the least. This citizen is more involved in systematic change and social movement. Throughout my entire schooling I do not remember learning about these ideas. This means that it was either not very important to me so I forgot about it or I simply did not learn about it.
The major focus during my schooling was developing personally responsible citizens. This taught me and my classmates skills that helped us develop good character. There are some downfalls to only focusing on developing personally responsible citizens. These citizens are less worried about systemic change; they are focused on the day to day aspects of helping others and being what they think are personally responsible citizens.
Each type of citizen has both advantages and disadvantages. All three types are important and are needed in society.