Citizenship as the Aim of Education

People have seen education and its major goals differently depending on the cultural, economic, and political peculiarities of their societies. Although the major idea behind educating younger generations has been their development and their transition to complete involvement in social life, the aims and methods still differ considerably (Kirylo, 2013). Brighouse (2006) states that liberal democracies have generated a specific view on the role of education in relation to citizenship that implies law abiding, active political participation, and engagement in public reasoning.

In simple terms, the role of educators is to teach children to be true citizens who can contribute to the evolution of their countries. I have a similar viewpoint on the matter and believe that all countries should concentrate on making younger generations responsible and active citizens. This paper includes a brief description of my philosophy regarding citizenship as an aim of education.

The concept of citizenship is complex, and in liberal democracies, it contains several elements. The components described by Brighouse (2006) unveil the major controversy related to citizenship. A good citizen concentrates on the public good by abiding with laws and taking an active part in the political life of their country. At the same time, participation in public reasoning presupposes an element of individuality and people’s needs. According to Dewey, education is mainly concerned with personal growth that inevitably results in people’s self-realization within the frames of the society (Wadlington, 2013).

The thinker emphasized that people learn to acknowledge their potential and be able to fulfil it by making the world better in diverse aspects. The process of making good citizens, as Dewey saw it, was associated with personal growth that translated into people’s desire to contribute and shape the society in accordance with certain beliefs and principles. Well-educated people become citizens who can create and maintain a world where all have equal opportunities, rights, and responsibilities. These societies are just and based on such liberal values as equality, empathy, and commitment to continuous growth.

The major strength of such views on education in its relation to citizenship is the focus on the development of the public good based on major moral principles. Many leaders attempted to create a just society where people do not suffer from hunger, disease, injustice, poverty, and other vices of the contemporary world. Education provides the instruments to address these issues as people create new medications and new technologies to make this world better, so more people would have access to better quality of life. Clearly, educators also play an important role in establishing moral standards for young people.

Chanicka et al. (2018) note that teachers initiate discussions related to social injustice and virtue, which contributes to the development of certain moral agendas in the classroom. The use of this approach becomes a shared vision of students and the teacher who co-creates their moral identities. Teacher’s courage to bring some issues up is one of the behavioral patterns adopted by students who become willing to push the limits as well.

I also believe that educators play an important part in shaping young people’s moral identities because I can name several teachers who were the co-creators of my morality. One of these key figures was my history teacher who showed that ethical behavior could be a norm for many people and communities. I remember him telling us stories of real people and choices made by specific individuals in diverse situations. He encouraged us to evaluate the behaviors and events as well as share our perspectives and our ideals. I believe I started developing my philosophy based on the discussions of such serious issues as immigration, social injustice, diversity, and multiculturalism. I often did not even realize that my personal ethical vectors were emerging.

These ethical norms can become the basis for further development of the society where individuals feel a shared responsibility and focus on the wellbeing of the nation rather than the interests of some groups (Banks, 2017). It is important to create a set of standards that will be followed when addressing different problems and instances of injustice. The shared morality will ensure the focus on similar goals and the use of specific methods to achieve these objectives.

Importantly, these methods should be based on the morals reigning in people’s minds. I see discussion and collaboration as the primary strategies to address any issue. These instruments are also essential in establishing ethical standards since people can truly use norms if they accept them. Sharing ideas and articulating needs and desires are two components of creating a system that will work.

The example to illustrate my point may seem naïve, but it is definitely one of the most memorable and critical experiences in my life. My elementary school teacher had a tremendous impact on my philosophy regarding the matter. She managed to create a system where pupils behaved in certain ways and discussed wrongful or righteous deeds. She did not simply punish wrongdoers or praised those who behaved properly.

She initiated discussions regarding the reasons behind actions and justifications for the evaluations we provided. We learned to think of what is right and wrong, and why it is so. We knew what actions are acceptable and desirable. We also understood why some actions were inappropriate and harmful, even if the most ethical goals were to be achieved. She always explained why bad means led to bad ends. This major lesson helped us at school and beyond, so I believe this approach should be further developed and made the national educational paradigm.

It is believed that educators can inspire younger generations to adopt certain values and moral codes. Rundgren and Chang Rundgren (2018) found that teachers’ confidence in their ability to use scientific knowledge to teach responsible citizenship is high, so educators are committed to achieving this literacy goal. Nevertheless, the modern educational systems do not fully equip learners with exact tools to become responsible citizens. Infinito (2005) emphasizes that the majority of teachers rely on a rather outdated approach of teaching one virtue at a time. This teaching is often associated with a random choice of virtues and the focus on “dictatorial” techniques (Infinito, 2005, p. 209).

Educators simply state that it is mandatory to behave or think in a specific way, and it is assumed that students will simply abide by such rules. Clearly, these methods are ineffective, especially when it comes to such an important sphere. As a former high-school student, I have to admit that this dictatorial approach has been common. However, I can also say that I always question all the postulates teachers (or anyone else) articulate.

One of the reasons behind the lack of attention to citizenship in the curriculum is the lack of understanding of its benefits. Americans, as well as people in other countries, concentrate on specific academic achievements that are aligned with young people’s short- and mid-term goals (Kirylo, 2013). Making a young person prepared to work in a particular environment and complete a set of tasks seems the highest priority. Kirylo (2013) claims that current educational strategies are mainly confined to standards and achieving certain academic goals. However, educators do not show the path to align individual goals with societal aims. Children are taught to compete to occupy some positions in the society rather than undertake some measures to eliminate the existing wrongs.

My academic experience is also an illustration of this byproduct of the system as I often focused on grades and specific areas of knowledge rather than paying sufficient attention to my general and ethical development. It often seems that students and teachers simply have limited time, so they concentrate on what seems necessary at a specific point in time. Nevertheless, Bickmore (2006) shows that the integration of moral development into the curriculum is possible and beneficial for students. Teachers, administrators, and the community can collaborate effectively to make this happen. Perhaps, they do not have sufficient courage as mentioned by Infinito (2005) who insists that educators need to have the courage to co-create ethical agendas with their students.

Moreover, the focus on personal achievements may contribute to various gaps between different groups of people. For instance, young people may pay less attention to ethical standards and contribute to the community in an attempt to increase their profit when doing business. Acquiring resources at any expense can become a new philosophy unless young generations are taught to be responsible citizens. The current environmental, social, political, and economic aspects may make people more focused on gaining specific skills and knowledge rather than such seemingly abstract notions as ethics or morality.

The supporters of the current educational systems may argue that people need specific skills to address environmental issues by creating technologies enabling people to rely on renewable energy sources. The development of medications may seem urgent while teaching young people to behave ethically can be regarded as a long-term objective.

Nevertheless, these views are wrongful because they make people miss the underlying reasons for many urgent issues. It is possible to consider the debate regarding environmental problems humanity has to face. These issues are accumulating, and only some aspects of the problem are addressed because people have different priorities. Even the American society is torn into several camps who argue instead of accepting each other’s right to certain views and contributing to the development of solutions.

If people shared similar views on the matter, they would spend less time arguing. Responsible citizens will try to create a plan and distribute roles based on each other’s abilities. Effective collaboration is quite rare if people have opposing ethical codes. Therefore, it is critical to educate young generations based on the new educational paradigm, which is citizenship education.

Making young generations responsible citizens who have a specific moral standard is an achievable goal. One of the effective ways to change the current educational system aiming at citizenship is to encourage students to discuss diverse instances of injustice (Bickmore, 2006). Bickmore (2006) illustrates this claim with the school curriculum of different Canadian provinces. The researcher emphasizes that educators try to avoid such controversial topics, but in some schools, discussions of such topics as poverty, third-world countries’ development, justice and injustice take place (Bickmore, 2006). Discussions are effective tools educators can employ as students will understand the causes and effects of the most burning issues, which is the first step towards solving problems. Young people will be accustomed to discussing challenging topics and ready to develop solutions to existing issues.

In addition to discussions, educators can utilize other strategies to prepare their students for becoming responsible citizens. One of these strategies is to encourage young people to address injustice at different levels and be active citizens. Educators should train young people to identify the primary reasons behind particular cases of injustice. Students should also be equipped with the necessary skills to implement research regarding these issues and ways people employ to address them in different countries.

It is also pivotal to continue engaging students in various types of volunteer work. I have volunteered to participate in diverse projects that exposed me to different kinds of injustices. These experiences helped me understand the needs of vulnerable groups and their ideas regarding their position and the society. My volunteer work has made me a more responsible citizen who is committed to changing the world for better.

Notably, teachers may also need certain training to provide corresponding educational services. Some tools to identify teachers’ self-efficacy, or in other words, their preparedness to teach moral aspects have been developed (Narvaez et al., 2008; Rundgren & Chang Rundgren, 2018). Clearly, the assessment of a teacher’s self-efficacy is the first step to be implemented as it can unveil the lack of knowledge or courage. Teachers, who were mainly raised within the scope of traditional educational systems, are likely to need training and collaboration. Educators need to share knowledge and experience, as well as success stories, to become ready to make young generations responsible citizens.

Of course, my philosophy and perspective regarding the benefit of citizenship education have some weaknesses. It can be difficult or even impossible to create a set of moral norms that would be accepted by everybody in their entirety. I have met quite many people with different backgrounds (in terms of their age, gender, and ethnicity). I now realize that some norms that seem obvious by one group of people may be regarded as completely unacceptable by another group. Gender equality issues seem ubiquitous, but they become a serious pitfall in many discussions. Universal ethical codes that could be accepted by people living in the multicultural society are yet to be created.

The discussion is the major tool to develop such codes and, as a result, make younger generations responsible citizens. However, they require quite substantial resources such as time and money. On the one hand, the development of any rule is associated with lasting debates, arguments, and reconciliation (Infinito, 2005). People need to find the underlying values and universal truths behind behaviors or cultural norms they have.

On the other hand, educators may lack the necessary skills to guide or even initiate these discussions correctly. Training requires time and other resources (materials, spaces, and monetary rewards are among others). Therefore, the incorporation of such educational philosophies into the curriculum can be problematic due to scarce resources, especially when it comes to underprivileged communities,

Ironically, in order to address this weakness, it is important to start the process of incorporation. Trying to avoid serious issues and conflicts has led to the emergence of considerable tension in many societies, so it is essential to commence the process of change. Young generations will be the platform for this transformation as after becoming responsible citizens, they will lead their parents in the correct direction.

In conclusion, it is necessary to note that citizenship as one of the major goals of education can be attainable if the educational systems in liberal democracies undergo changes. It is critical to incorporate discussions of the current controversies and injustice that still reigns in many spheres of people’s lives into schools’ curriculum. Apart from postulating the need to contribute to the development of the society, learners should be trained to use their knowledge and skills to become responsible citizens. Teachers can train students to identify issues, explore them, and generate ideas. Educators should develop effective strategies to make young generations willing and prepared to address the existing and upcoming issues through collaboration and commitment to the public good.

I would also like to note that my contemplation regarding the matter has made my personal philosophy more well-defined. I do not simply feel what should be done, but I know exactly what should be done and why. The review of the existing literature on the matter helped me gain insights into the current and ideal educational system. My perspective regarding the matter has evolved to become a plan I will start implementing immediately.

I understand that citizenship education is possible and necessary as without a moral basis people risk entering a new era of isolationism and degradation. People have to unite to address global issues, which can be possible if they have a moral code guiding them in diverse situations. I am gaining new insights into the problem and consider new ideas as to the steps I, personally, can and will undertake.

References

Banks, J. A. (2017). Failed citizenship and transformative civic education. Educational Researcher, 46(7), 366-377. Web.

Bickmore, K. (2006). Democratic social cohesion (assimilation)? Representations of social conflict in Canadian public school curriculum. Canadian Journal of Education, 29(2), 359-386.

Brighouse, H. (2006). On education. Web.

Chanicka, J., Mahari de Silva, R., & Merkley, K. (2018). An inclusive design vision for Canada – schooling as a process for participatory democracy and responsible citizenship. Intercultural Education, 29(5-6), 632-646. Web.

Infinito, J. (2005). Theorizing courage as requisite for moral education. In C. Higgins (Ed.), Philosophy of education 2004 (pp. 209-218). Urbana, IL: Philosophy of Education Society.

Kirylo, J. D. (2013). A critical pedagogy of resistance. Web.

Narvaez, D., Vaydich, J. L., Turner, J. C., & Khmelkov, V. (2008). Teacher self-efficacy for moral education: Measuring teacher self-efficacy for moral education. Journal of Research in Character Education, 6(2), 3-15.

Rundgren, C.J., & Chang Rundgren, S. N. (2018). Aiming for responsible and competent citizenship through teacher professional development on teaching socioscientific inquiry-based learning (SSIBL). Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, 19(2), 1-28.

Wadlington, E. (2013). John Dewey: Pragmatist, philosopher, and advocate of progressive education. In J. D. Kirylo (Ed.), A critical pedagogy of resistance: 34 pedagogues we need to know (pp. 29-32).