Citizenship – An Impossible Dream?

Do we obey laws/ rules only if we think someone is watching? Is there an innate willingness within each of us to want to balance self-interest with common interest, or does it have to be learned? If the latter, then what should we in schools be doing about it? Also, when there’s so much evidence all around our children of a ‘dog eat dog’, me first (and only) selfishness, then how much can we as educators realistically achieve?

These were a few of the thoughts that were going through my mind when reading this article which gives an American perspective from the New York Times on Delhi Police presence on Facebook through which citizens are ‘grassing on each other’.

New York Times Article

I’m sure that doing this makes the ‘grasser’ feel very self-righteous, but would want to know that they are not just as guilty themselves, but tempted by the opportunity to give trouble to others.

Of course, the starting point would be if everyone obeyed the rules all the time – then none of this would be necessary and everybody’s best interests would be served.

Personally, I love the sound of a car horn behind me when someone’s protesting my refusal to jump the red light (as nobody’s around to see!) – it’s the only time i love the sound of a car horn! But, I love even more when a car jumps the light to go past me (even better on the inside), only for me to move off when the light goes green and then pull up next to him/ her at the next set of lights. Then I know that there is justice in the world.

About 12 years ago when living in London my neighbours and I got disturbed by the frequency with which people were ignoring pedestrians at a zebra crossing. I had seen a woman with a baby in a pram have a lucky escape by an inch. When we started questioning people more widely we were told “It must be outsiders” and “what can you do?”. Well, we formed a group, placed an ad in the local paper and got some more members. Then we started doing random checks at the crossing, taking photos of the number plates of the culprits. These we shared with the local police station, who confirmed from their records that over 70% were in fact local people (including one member of the campaign group!)

The police even started naming and shaming the culprits in the local paper. The behaviour at the crossing was changed overnight.

We can bemoan the lack of citizenship in our neighbours. However, we do need to look first to ourselves and then at what we’re prepared to do to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. In the longer term, I do firmly believe that teachers have an enormous opportunity to be a power for good though their influence on/ through the children. However, they have to address their own behaviours very clearly first (I won’t name the two teachers who have inadvertently cut me up on the road in the last few months, but they know who they are 😉 .

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One Response

  1. Start citizenship awards at Shriram for every class every section.

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