ECS 203

Citizenship and the Education System

In the article, What Kind of Citizen?, Joel Westheimer and Joseph Kahne outline three of the most prevalent versions of citizenship called the personally responsible citizen, the participatory citizen, and the justice-oriented citizen. The article explains the differences between each of these versions of citizenship through an example about a food drive. They define the personally responsible citizen as the type of person that would donate food to the food drive. Next, they describe the participatory citizen as the type of person that would organize the food drive. Lastly, they describe the justice-oriented citizen as the type of person that would question why people are going hungry and act to help solve the root cause of the issue (page 240).

I would say that the large majority of my K-12 education prepared me to become a personally responsible citizen. Throughout elementary school, I was taught to obey rules and respect authority. Raising my hand before speaking was engrained into me, my class was always taught to walk in a straight line when in the halls, we sang O Canada every morning, and we were taught about the importance of voting when we were older. These are all things that would lead to a personally responsible citizen, someone who obeys laws and contributes to their community by voting. In high school, we would have annual fundraisers and food bank drives to support our community. Most students, including myself, who contributed food to help their grade win the grand prize were learning to be a personally responsible citizen. However, students who were involved in MINGA or the SRC planned and organized our school food drives and fundraisers, which would fall under the participatory citizen category.

The Saskatchewan curriculum definitely focuses most on creating personally responsible citizens, which is why most students have similar experiences to mine. This approach to curriculum instruction aims to create working members of society who will pay their taxes, vote, and help those in need from time to time. It does not prepare students to speak out against injustice, protest when major injustice occurs, or recognize the systematic oppression present in many of our societal structures. This implies that our curriculum makers value success and power, and reveals how they want to maintain the success and power they currently hold. As Mike Cappello mentions in this podcast, we are not going to see much change in the amount of racism Indigenous peoples in Saskatchewan face until we change the settler colonial structures we teach citizenship education in.


  • Jackie W


    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post as well as your perspective. I can relate to the majority of my K-12 education focusing more heavily on creating personally responsible citizens although mine increased focus on the justice-oriented citizen in grades 10-12. I was very interested and impressed to hear that a component of your citizen focus in your personal K-12 education was the importance of voting as well as being encouraged to vote. Do you feel that voting falls mostly under personally responsible citizen or do you feel that it could be considered personally responsible citizen, participatory citizen and justice-oriented citizen?

    With gratitude,

    • Sarah Stroeder

      Hi Jackie,
      I do feel that voting falls under the personally responsible citizen category. Although you may be voting to help better society or work towards social justice (for example by voting for a candidate who promises to improve living conditions in Indigenous communities), you yourself are not the one leading or organizing that change. This rules out the participatory citizen category. In addition, the act of voting does not question the systematic issues within our society. You are simply voting for someone else to (hopefully) fulfill their promises to create a more just society. This is why I believe it is almost entirely personally responsible.
      Thanks for the question!

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