The earliest memories I have of citizenship education come from grade 6 and onward, with the majority of what I learned relating to the principles and characteristics of the personally responsible citizen. We were taught how to be “good citizens” by learning socially acceptable behaviours and practices. We were taught to be kind, work hard, educate ourselves, obey the law, vote, pay taxes, help others in need, contribute to charity, etc. I vaguely remember examining concepts of citizens who were less and more involved than the average citizen, and what those principles and behaviours looked like. We were discouraged from being “bad” citizens and gently encouraged to be average or above average citizens. Looking back now, it seems as though the citizenship teaching we received was meant to be synonymous with our character. If we displayed characteristics that fell outside the realm of the average or above average citizen, we were bad citizens and therefore bad people.
After learning more about citizenship and the three types of citizens in class, I realized there was a lot my initial citizenship education left out or made impossible. Firstly, many principles and characteristics of the participatory citizen were left out of the curriculum, with this kind of citizen only minorly being touched on. In addition, the justice-oriented citizen was neglected all together. I find it troubling that this information was left out of my citizenship education, and feel it should be integrated into current curriculum if it isn’t already. I feel as though we are entering into political times where we need to be educated and active citizens in order to create the society we desire. If we do not teach these types of citizenship in schools, it becomes harder to enact them when our students grow older. Lastly, much of the citizenship education I received did not discuss immigrant citizenship or express citizenship from an immigrant point of view. Canada is a country with an ever-growing immigrant population, and I think it is important to honour this perspective. Citizenship (and Canadian citizenship in particular) can hold varied meanings from those who do not obtain it by birth. Honouring this perspective works to honour the perspectives of immigrant children in the classroom and educate Canadian-born students. By expanding the content of citizenship education, we can create more educated and unified citizens, ultimately benefitting our country.