This past week I had the pleasurable experience of having my lesson plan reach an unforeseen conclusion. It was student’s thoughts and perceptions that led our class to look beyond the hallmarks of an effective government and begin to contemplate obstacles to governance. The list was full of systemic and long-standing problems, the sort that makes a citizen quickly feel powerless to effect change. However, some of the problems of government lie at the feet of the people, therefore the people can work toward betterment.
The Council of Europe’s, Education for Democratic Citizenship report in December 2004, defines Active citizenship as,
“…a form of literacy: coming to grips with what happens in public life, developing knowledge, understanding, critical thinking and independent judgement of local, national,…global levels.
Action and empowerment,
Acquiring knowledge, skills and attitude
Being able and willing to use them
Making decisions, taking action, individually and collectively.”
Movements for change have certainly benefitted from highly visible leaders such as civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. or the environmentalist Rachel Carson. But it is the crowd of Americans willing to be a part of a movement that give force to a cause and a spotlight for the voice of its leaders.
It is a privilege to be a member of the American community regardless of its flaws. One need not look further than a comparison of geographic locations and historical ages, to recognize our privilege today entails living a life freer from hardship. The cost for such fortune ought to be active and consistent engagement in our community. Stop waiting for the next calamitous societal event to motivate you to acquire the necessary literacy of citizenship. Be active now, and through your actions inspire others as well. It seems plausible that the impact of active citizens can stave off the events that too often rock us to our core.