Communal Responsibility Exercised
I felt it was fitting that I finally find the time to respond to your post on citizenship on election day. I was struck by the excerpt below and wanted to respond to it.
Naturally, the breeding grounds for this responsible citizenship model should be schools… Character education assumes a stark delineation between the adults and the children in the room; responsible citizenship assumes adults have relinquished some of their authority in favor of a clear exchange of values, understandings, and vision for all of our children.
When I read your post kept thinking I was missing something. I had never experienced character education as you described it. What you are talking about in your post sounds more to me like control or enacted fear. I can’t say, “I’ve never felt fear in front of a class of kids,” because I have. But I hope that adults can use some moral character when they decide how to treat students they fear.
That said, I want to offer another possible term for consideration. Instead of responsible citizenship, which to me implies a formalized relationship, consider “communal responsibility”.
To me developing communal responsibility would go a long way towards creating school environments where students feel safe in more ways than physically. When a frame of communal responsibility is applied to the interactions between students, teachers, and parents, then it takes some of the edge of already having to know how to be a citizen out of the equation. For example, if one of your students doesn’t do their homework because they don’t understand it, why shouldn’t another student work with that student to help them understand.
This is different from “communal accountability” which is holding people at fault or favor for the results of the community’s actions. For example, when a student doesn’t understand their homework, you re-teach it to the whole class.
So try that on for size as the polls close and we watch the expression of our communal responsibility exercised through voting. I won’t hold you accountable of my candidate isn’t elected.