Raising Contributing Citizens

The three types of citizenship mentioned in the article are:

1) the personally responsible citizen

2) the participatory citizen

3) justice oriented citizen

I have been fortunate to be involved in all three types of citizenship development in my K-12 schooling. A Personally Responsible citizen is one who, “acts responsibly for his/her community” (Westheimer, 2004, p. 3). Throughout my school years we would participate in occasional community litter clean ups.  A recycling program was in place in my school and we were taught to respect and obey the rules and laws of both the school and society.  During the holiday season, my school participated in an annual food drive where I, and many of my peers, would deliver food hampers to individuals and families in our community. In addition, I was part of the local dance school and Girl Guide program while growing up.  In these organizations, we spent numerous hours helping in the community and performing at the nursing home and senior centers.

I was also involved in a number of Participatory Citizen activities throughout my school years.  In Grade 11 I enrolled in Law 30 in which we studied and learned about many political and justice issues through lecture, videos and numerous guest speaker presentations.  I began my involvement in student government in Grade 5 and have been an active participant ever since.  This extensive involvement has allowed me to help address issues in the school and community.  In addition, I have learned how to run a meeting, problem solve, negotiate, compromise and developed many other skills.  In addition, I ventured out of the regular school setting and travelled throughout Saskatchewan and to Ottawa, on four separate occasions, to participate in a variety of forums where I learned about local and national political issues.

The Justice Oriented Citizen learning goes hand in hand with the Forums in which I participated.  A large part of these Forums was to explore an issue of interest and collaborate and share ideas with other participants on how we could make a change in our home community, province and even globally.

After reading about the three types of citizenship learning, I realize that I may be one of the few fortunate people who have experienced all three so fully during my K-12 school career.  However, many of my experiences took place outside of the regular school classroom activities. It makes me wonder if the curriculum does not address all three types of citizenship equally. This seems to be the case as the assigned reading states that, “personal responsibility receives the most attention” (Westheimer, 2004, p. 5).  Upon reflection, I do believe this to be true as it would have been the only citizenship I would have been exposed to if I had not chosen to take Law or participate in the extra-curricular forum travel opportunities.  I am a person who naturally enjoys volunteering, being involved in student led governments, travel, meeting people and learning about a wide array of issues. The opportunities to experience and to contribute to the development of a Personally Responsible citizen are quite accessible in any rural or urban setting and easily fit into a variety of learning outcomes in the curriculum. Whereas, the opportunities contributing to the development of a Participatory citizen and Justice Oriented citizen are not as easy to make available.  However, these can also be provided with some imagination and creativity and should be made a higher  priority in the curriculum in order for students to fully become contributing members of society.

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