The citizenship education in my K-12 years was mostly personally responsible based. Joel Westheimer and Joseph Cane in What Kind of Citizen, categorize that as generally character education and volunteerism (241). Neither of these are bad, in fact they are both excellent things for students to learn. The point of their article, is that it is not enough to volunteer to help those suffering from a broken system, we need to change the system. I think this is so important. We do need to help those suffering from a broken and oppressive system, but if all we do is strive to help pick up the pieces, we will continue creating more pieces to pick up. What we need to do is teach and enable students to look at the underlying structures, values, and results of our systems and create new better systems.
Westheimer and Cane talk about how personally responsible citizens are also taught obedience and loyalty to the current systems and this can stifle critical thinking and action. (243) It is important that we do teach students the need for laws and obeying the laws, but we must also teach them to analyze and critically look at the laws in place and fight for a change if one is needed. A more participatory and justice orientated citizen will not only volunteer and help those in need, they will also have the knowledge and ability to fight for systematic change to bring lasting change. Dr. Mike Cappello on voicED.ca also talks about citizenship instruction. The citizenship instruction that is given in a place, show the values of that place. If we value obedient and helpful citizens that will go along with the program then we will teach that kind of citizenship. However, if we value citizens that critically look at systems that drive what we are doing and fight for the necessary changes then we will teach that kind of citizenship, a justice orientated citizenship. We will not all agree on what is right or best, but we can all work together to create a country that we can all be proud of. Joel Westheimer, in an interview, said it so well when he said that part of our role of citizens in a democracy is to air our differences and come up with a way to move forward.