Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What does "citizenship" mean?

Having already passed on the Celtics-Heat game after 1:30 of the season, I thought I would sit down and write a post on the importance of citizenship, especially as it has been the subject of a couple of columns I have read this week.

The English Parliament recently announced that drastic cuts in education outside of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), which has greatly worried educators in not only in social studies, but also all of the humanities. As A.C. Grayling said in a recent post in the New Statesman

Yet the ambition to educate more people to a high level, to meet not just the economy's needs but those of a complex society by enriching the lives of its individual members, was always a good one. What we see in the cuts is an abandonment of that ambition in favour of economic imperatives alone.

Now, frequent readers of this blog will remember my father's words about "education is not vocation." We, as educators, are trying to create in our students a love of learning about all things, not just about the things that will get them a job. But, so much of our job in the humanities is to teach them how to become contributing citizens of the United States and the world. If our students are being pushed more and more into the STEM, then what might that mean for their ability to understand the United States and the world around them better? I am currently in the middle of teaching the basics of the Constitution to my sophomores and trying to have them understand the importance of the document and how it impacts their lives on a daily basis. But, if the cuts in England are any indication about what might happen to the humanities in the United States, we must be prepared now for that reality.

The second article that I would encourage people to read is about bringing "civic education to the front burner". In the piece, Anne O'Brien quotes Rick Hess in saying:
For America's founders such as Benjamin Rush, Noah Webster, and Thomas Jefferson, one of the main functions of schools was producing democratic citizens.

If this country is going to get back on the successful track that we have been for most of our brief history, we need our students to be engaged in their futures. They need to be able to think their way through issues, and without experience in how to do that in a number of different areas/subjects, they are not going to be able to deal with the different circumstances as they arise.

Focusing on the STEM is not fine. It leaves a whole, wide, wonderful world unexamined by our students.

No comments: