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Models of citizenship

Being a good citizen can take many forms! Some folks are personally-responsible citizens who follow laws and help others. Others are participatory citizens who organize community actions. Then there are justice-oriented citizens who tackle big social issues. All these models contribute to a better community! Created by Kimberly Kutz.

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Video transcript

- [Instructor] What do you think it means to be a good citizen? What does a good citizen do? Take a minute to you imagine your idea of a good citizen. What characteristics does that person have? What actions does that person take that contribute to their status as an active and virtuous citizen? I encourage you to pause the video here and write down a few words or examples. Okay, so what did you come up with? Did you think of someone who obeys the law, treats others with kindness, volunteers, maybe spends their money wisely? What about someone who is active in politics, or organizes community responses to problems like starting a food drive? Or maybe you thought about someone who tries to solve problems facing society by advocating for change, maybe working to change laws or larger social structures in order to promote justice and equality. So which one is right? Okay, yeah, you guessed it. It's a trick question. In fact, these are all models of good citizenship, and I wanna to dive a little more deeply into each of them to give you a sense of what they mean, because if you compare what you jotted down when I asked you to imagine a good citizen, to what your friend or your parent or your teacher imagined, you might find that they had something entirely different in mind. So it's helpful to be able to name different visions for good citizenship, so that you can probe a little more deeply into what someone really means when they're talking about it. The first model you might see is that of the personally-responsible citizen. This is a model of citizenship that focuses on the actions an individual can take to be a good member of their community. A personally-responsible citizen fulfills their personal obligations and acts responsibly. They pay their taxes, vote, obey the law, and volunteer to help the less fortunate. The are honest and work hard. What separates this model from the other two we're going to talk about is that the personally-responsible citizen generally doesn't try to change society or lead efforts to improve their community. They just do their part. The second model I wanna talk about is participatory citizenship. This model emphasizes community action and organizing. The participatory citizen might create a group to advocate for environmental protection, or organize a blood drive at their school or workplace. They believe in working collectively with others to address problems in their communities. They tend to work through established systems and groups to enact change, which distinguishes them from the last model I wanna talk about, the justice-oriented citizen. A big difference between the justice-oriented citizen and the participatory citizen is that participatory citizens don't attempt to change big underlying social problems like poverty or racism. They organize to meet the challenges of the world as it is. So let's talk a little bit more about this third model, the justice-oriented citizen. The justice-oriented citizen is interested in addressing social issues and the larger structures that lead to injustice. They try to take a step back from society as it is to ask why problems happen, and seek solutions to their root causes. So for a justice-oriented citizen, giving to charity or organizing a group to combat a social problem isn't enough. They wanna stop that problem from happening in the future. Now, I'm not telling you this because I want to convince you that there's a correct or a best way to be a good citizen. All three of these models are doing good in their communities, just in different ways and with different areas of focus. I'm also not saying that you have to choose one of these models to follow. There's nothing stopping you from doing a little bit of all three, or taking one approach with an issue you care about, and a different approach with another issue, but understanding these different approaches to citizenship will help you communicate more clearly with others about how you can work together to improve your community. Before we go, let's do a quick scenario so you can get in some practice. I'll give you some examples of students responding to a problem at their school, And you see if you can identify which model of citizenship each student represents. So here's the problem. The marching band doesn't have enough money to attend the "The Battle of the Big Bands," where they're going to compete for best regional marching band. Gabe, who plays the tuba, decides to organize a bake sale in order to raise money for the band trip. Bodie, who plays the flute, bakes brownies and buys rice crispy treats for all of her friends to support the cause. Nadia, who plays alto sax wonders why the marching band doesn't have as much funding as some other school clubs. She presents in front of the school board requesting equal funding per student for extra curricular activities. Which model of citizenship does each of these students represent. Gabe is modeling participatory citizenship. He is organizing a community response to a problem. Bodie is modeling personally-responsible citizenship. She does her part in the bake sale. Nadia is modeling justice-oriented citizenship. She wants to make sure that the systems are in place to keep problems like this from happening in the first place. So which model of citizenship do you think you most often practice? Does your family, school, social group, promote one of these models more than another? Do you think there are other models of citizenship that we haven't identified here?