Who Will Prepare Our Students to Be Good People?
Ihave to admit I cringe every time I hear someone talking about how imperative it is that students learn digital age skills so they can compete in the global workforce—or
other clichés to that effect. It’s not that I have anything
against today’s students having jobs tomorrow. But I wince
at the notion that we regard students solely as worker bees.
Educating children is a much bigger job than training workers. It’s about teaching kids to participate in civil society, be
lifelong learners, create, and essentially become nice, or at
least law-abiding, people.
David Warlick addressed the topic of citizenship in two
recent posts in his blog, 2¢ Worth. In a post titled “Would
We Be Talking about Digital Citizenship If We Were…?”
he laments the lack of citizenship among adults:
We need to champion concerted efforts to define and teach
our students to be digital citizens because we’re not. As a
society, we have failed to recognize the crucial educational
implications of the incredible shifts that information and
communication technologies have provoked in recent de-
cades. As politicians, we have shrunk from our respon-
sibilities to provide for our children, eagerly trading
leadership for partisan gamesmanship.
As educators, we have grown less confident, more
complacent, and just plain meek, when we should
have been insightful and bold. Much is made of our
falling behind the Chinese and the Finns and behind
our digital native children. But the real shame is that
in working to prepare our children for their future, we
have fallen so pathetically far behind our own times.
In another post titled “Who’s Championing Citizenship,”
Warlick writes about Change the Equation’s recent push in
the United States to improve science, technology, engineer-
ing, and math (STEM) education. This nonprofit organiza-
tion is backed by heavy hitters from some of the largest
corporations in the technology field, and although Warlick
Who’s putting megabucks and weighty influence
behind education that prepares learners for civic
responsibility, community awareness, and the ability
to artistically and passionately express oneself and
appreciate the expressions of others? Who’s backing,
with loud voices, an education that leads not only to
successful industry, but also to successful and ful-
filling home lives? Who’s being listened to, as they
demand education that leads to a democracy based
on truth, knowledge, and logic, and not emotional
energy generated by fear?
I can’t help but wonder how much stronger our U.S.
curriculum would be as a whole with more of the
“glue” that the social studies, including citizenship ed,
might provide. The connections to real life and both
American and global values made possible through
the social studies helps kids derive personal meaning
from all academic experiences.
And who is championing critical thinking? Nobody,
because it puts the whole hierarchy in question.
Diana Fingal is the senior editor for L&L. She has been writing for and editing periodicals for more than 20 years.