What examples of citizenship education do you remember from your K-12 schooling? Explore what this curriculum made (im)possible in regards to citizenship.
In my K-8 schooling at W.S. Hawrylak shapes "what good citizenship is and what good citizens do" (Westheimer, 2003, p. 47), according to the schools' Canadian values. For example, the national anthem was played every morning, which made possible for students to participate in this form of citizenship (personally responsible citizen) or not and engrained nationalism into students' heads. Furthermore, in grade 6-8, students could vote and run for the SRC which made it possible for students to potentially become involved in the school and society. The opportunity to vote in grades 6-8, regardless of anything, meant that all students were citizens of the school and had rights. For the students who just voted and did not run, including myself, it was mandatory to vote which enforced personally responsible citizens in the school. Also, every grade 6-8 student had to listen to the speeches of the SRC candidates, which allows the voting students a glimpse of what a participatory citizen involved and what they could work towards. This illustrates what one Canadian school think democracy involves. Westheimer (2003) writes, "when we get specific about what democracy requires and about what kind of school curricula will best promote it, much of [the] consensus [about democracy] falls away" (Westheimer, 2003, p. 49). At W.S. Hawrylak, "good citizens in a democracy ... take active parts in political processes by voting ... and working on political campaigns" (Westheimer, 2003, p. 49).
Although SRC was a good way to involve the older students in the school in a meaningful way, it was a popularity contest. Those that won the majority vote were favored by students and teachers. This makes it impossible for a citizen/student who lacks popularity, SRC leader, even if the students has good intentions, goals and the ability to make a change. This implies that only certain people can become good citizens, so students that thought they were unpopular did not even try to run for SRC. The push for students to participate somehow in a mini-democracy may be due to a desire for Canadians to take advantage of their right to vote. Often, "the biggest declines [of voting rates] are among young people" (Westheimer, 2003, p. 49), so schools attempt to encourage this democratic privilege.
In addition, once a year there was Earth Day which meant that the older students in the school would participate in cleaning up the playground. This can be questioned, because it seems that the only encouragement students were offered to clean up the playground was that it would help the school's space look more presentable. The motivation is an important factor in why many of us, even as adults, act as 'good' citizens. It would be more beneficial for students if they cleaned up the surrounding neighbour hoods every week, not just on Earth Day. Students were given the idea that they made a difference, and they did because the playground was cleaner, but there's always more that could be done. The most basic citizenship, personally responsible citizen, is what was encouraged, and nothing more.