I attended one (Catholic) elementary school for grades one to eight. I guess, after that, I became a bit of a wanderer when it came to high school. I attended three different high schools (one catholic, two public) and a fourth after I graduated to upgrade some classes. One semester of grade 11 was spent in the HCAP (High school carpentry apprenticeship program), where we built a duplex with Habitat for Humanity. I learned about citizenship inside the classroom, at home from my family, and from being involved with out of school sports and clubs. I was encouraged in all three to be “an active member of community organizations (Westheimer).
In elementary school, we were expected to volunteer with food drives, penny and phone book drives (yes I am that old), Terry Fox runs, special Olympics and spend time visiting senior homes. Volunteer work within and outside of the school was celebrated in monthly assemblies and end of year functions. Thinking of Joel Westheimer’s writing, we were taught and prepared to be responsible members of the community.
There were no mandatory volunteer expectations throughout elementary and high school, except for the one-term I spent at a Catholic high school. At that particular school, it was compulsory to take Christian Ethics, which included volunteer hours. There was an importance placed on being a good person who contributes to a positive community. Although there were no mandatory volunteer expectations, there was an abundance of opportunities to get involved. Relating to what Joel Westheimer stated in an interview, he explained that education is about changing the world and allowing students to have a role to play. I did have the opportunity to take a leadership class in grade 11, which was a great experience where we did study citizenship to an extent. There is a difference between learning in class and taking what you learned outside of the classroom. There was very little education on government organizations or how this interacts with the community.
There was only some time spent on citizenship while I was in school. Jumping forward, I have noticed many improvements in schools now. One of the high schools I attended implemented a social justice class, leadership classes and recognizing student citizenship accomplishments. The school I did my ECS 110 placement last year had a large medicine wheel in the school’s entrance hall. Each section of the medicine wheel had been labelled with: Generosity, Belonging, Mastery and Endurance. Each month the teachers would each choose one student per grade who demonstrated these virtues and had their photo added to the medicine wheel. This encouraged the students to strive to demonstrate being good citizens.
While reading the Saskatchewan curriculum, you notice it takes a participatory approach to citizenship. Mike Cappello argues in his podcast that there is a need to improve the Justice Oriented Citizen with our students. As future educators, we must teach about Canadian history, current world issues, and how to improve our world for the future.
This post is written based on the following articles/videos: