From kindergarten to grade nine, the majority of educational memories that I have involve creating personally responsible citizens. Kahne and Westheimer (2004) suggest, “the personally responsible citizen acts responsible in his or her community by, for example, picking up litter, giving blood, recycling, obeying laws, and staing out of debt” (p. 241). This idea sort of goes back to the ‘hidden curriculum’ idea in that teachers are expected to convey these principles even though they are not mentioned in the formal curriculum. I remember teachers in elementary school organizing food drives and we were expected to bring non-perishable food items, donate clothing for clothing drives, clean up our playground from garbage and so on. It was not until later in my educational experience that we were expected to shift towards the participatory citizen. Kahne and Westheimer (2004) describe the participatory citizen as “those who actively participate in the civic affairs of the social life of the community at the local, state, or national level” (p. 241). As we got to the higher grades we were encouraged to create and organize our own events (i.e. bottle drives to raise money for local shelters, organize food drives for the food bank, collect donations during Christmas time for those in need). However, these events were only encouraged and not mandatory. In the lower grades, it was mandatory for us to develop the attributes that were associated with being personally responsible citizens.
The approach that is taken in citizenship instruction tells us about the beliefs and values that are important for that place. Kahne and Westheimer (2004) state “programs often influence politically important outcomes regarding the ways that students understand the strengths and weaknesses of our society and the ways that they should act as citizens” (p. 238). Therefore, the approach educator’s take about citizenship is important because it will help shape the values and beliefs of students. The groups that are developing the curriculum also have an impact on citizenship development in the classroom. If the curriculum only focuses on hitting outcomes that are directly related to developing personally responsible citizens, they will be missing out on the other aspects that are important (why, or how we are able to change what is going on).