We are now witnessing other groups take the path identified in the Citizenship Complex, most notably the LGBTQIA community. There are obviously differences in the precise route they are taking. Unlike most members of racial groups, gays and lesbians can be “invisible” in the sense that they aren’t marked by skin color. Moreover, they are making a different set of claims for equality. Nonetheless, many of the fundamental issues remain the same, a topic that should prove an interesting point to discuss with your students.
Where do we go from here? While I have my own answers, that is obviously a question for you to work out with your students because, at the end of the day, the answers have to belong to them. My hope is that we can convince our students not to be spectators or bystanders in the fight for inclusion. I hope they won’t treat outsiders to the community as “invisibles” simply because they aren’t members of that excluded group. .
Citizenship requires action. There has to be a way to live that starts with toleration but then moves to advocacy and debate and
ends with action. In New Haven Academy, for example, the school’s teaching of the “Habits of Mind” forces an internal and external search of a students’ worldview. Through asking questions, finding evidence, making connections, recognizing perspective, considering alternatives, and explaining relevance, students become not just knowledgeable about who are the outsiders to our community but understand why that it so.
The Restorative Justice Program’s use of “Circles” -- having students sit around each other in a circle and address problems or just talk can be another – is a useful tool for addressing the issues of the Citizenship Complex. Students are forced to discuss issues of justice as a community with the
of bringing those issues back into the community.
Finally, with the Facing History and Ourselves curriculum, we explore students’ commonly held misconceptions and stereotypes about race, citizenship, and religion in order to give students a sense of what it means to be an upstander rather than a bystander. They should feel empowered to be the journalists of their own experiences and the experiences of others. As we document and share these experiences, we encourage critical thought about inclusion and community. We may not be able to predict what will our students do with this new powerful medium, but isn’t that the beauty of the Citizenship Complex?