Citizenship isn’t about saying “excuse me” when you burp or turning in homework that isn’t sloppy. It’s about asking questions and listening and developing a social voice. This can be difficult, because authentic citizenship doesn’t look pretty on a spreadsheet. True citizenship is about paradox and mystery, requiring students to take up a hammer and swing it at injustice and yet learn to also wield the hammer with a chisel to sculpt something better. It requires students to make an honest analysis of poverty and racism and injustice and yet not turn too jaded; to serve and change the community and to celebrate what is beautiful in the midst of the brokenness.
As a high school teacher and administrator I frequently wrote letters of recommendations for graduating students. I always framed those recommendations in terms of good citizenship. I adopted some indicators of citizenship from a list published on a government poster in the 1980s. I wish I still had access to that poster so I could cite the Saskatchewan department. I posted a reference to this on edustange some time ago: http://staff.prairiesouth.ca/sites/stangea?s=citizenship
My list does not include a critical stance and I think we need to include that in our learning about citizenship. We also need to respectfully acknowledge young people’s obligation to reflect critically on our cultural patterns: how we make decisions, how we meet our needs, and how we learn. John Spencer is right. Beyond a critical stance is activism. Young people should not just question, they should be encouraged to build.