When I was in school (especially early education) I was taught mainly to be a personally responsible citizen. I was taught to speak when it was my turn, to draw within the lines, to not make a mess, to stand in a straight line. I was taught how to deal with conflict by going to an adult and to keep my desk (and technically my notebook but I was a doodler so it was a lost cause) organized. A specific example of this is a very vivid memory in my mind from grade two. I had misunderstood an assignment. I thought that I had to write a journal entry on any animal I chose. I worked hard to write it but when I turned it in, I learned that it was specifically on otters. I was sent to the principal’s office and was told that I couldn’t participate in recess until I fixed it. This entails that whatever work or effort that I do, it must be done within the lines of the rules – something that goes along with Westheimer and Kahne’s definition of the personally responsible citizen. In this way, it made it impossible for me to think creatively or outside of the box. All of my efforts were not towards the tasks that I chose but predetermined tasks for me. The standardized testing of these assignments also aligned with this. I had to stick to the status quo of writing, mathematics, history, art and music. The spaces were not made in the curriculum or even in my extracurriculars for me to explore what my leadership looked like much less to criticize the status quo.
The approach we take to citizen instruction tells us how much society wants to change. Each type of citizenship takes us deeper into the heart of why we do what we do. The deeper we dig, the harder it is to ignore the status quo. So much of the curriculum tells us that we only maintain the way society is now because it is more or less “good”. It implies (especially with the personally responsible citizen) that what’s wrong with society is caused by bad egg people and not society itself. Participatory citizenship shifts the blame on leadership and looks at what leaders can be doing to make society better. Justice oriented citizenship looks at society as a whole devaluates its roots. If a gardener wants to be effective it must pull the roots of the weed and they know that there will be weeds that grow again if they aren’t diligently checking their garden. Pulling out the blooms is ineffective and harmful. The same goes for citizenship. We need deep thinking systems, leadership and citizens in order to effectively deal with societies’ injustices, otherwise, we’ll produce shallow thinking, carbon copies of one another – which may maintain the illusion of social justice but doesn’t deal with it in its entirety.