Citizens of the Future
By Mike Carls, ISD 423 Board of Education
Parents, schools and the community share the responsibility of educating today’s young people to be effective citizens in the future. In a letter written in 1816, Thomas Jefferson reminded us that the education of today’s young people is central to the preservation of our deeply held civic values. We are all in this together, striving to do the best we can with our time, talents and resources.
Think back to your learning experiences both in and out of school. What do you remember most? It was probably when you were actually “doing something” – in other words, actively participating. Active participation – whether in school, in the community, in a group or as an individual – often gives us our most memorable learning experiences. Considering this, it’s up to us to apply an “experiences model” to advance civic values such as freedom, liberty and equality. Teachers use active learning in the classroom daily and strive to teach these values. How can we, as parents and community members, contribute to and enhance these efforts?
If we want our young people to be actively involved in our community and our national political life, we need to be actively involved ourselves. We know young people pay more attention to what we do than what we say. Many of us face obstacles of limited time and resources, but there are a multitude of ways we can demonstrate our belief that “doing” is important. We model our belief in making a difference when we volunteer for a cause or an organization, run for civic or political office, and show commitment to long-term goals we believe in by becoming involved.
Students not only need to see adults who model these behaviors, they need to have experiences themselves. They need and deserve opportunities: to be actively involved in their community, to come into contact with people outside of the school setting who can further their knowledge and experience, and to learn from and serve their community. Such activities can help students develop qualities like persistence and leadership, help them understand the value of setting and achieving long-term goals, and even learn that failure can be a positive opportunity for learning. When students see the difference they can make, “real life” learning can have a profound impact.
Hutchinson Schools already use and are continuing to expand such opportunities outside the traditional classroom. We see this across age groups in programs such as Park’s “Helping Paws,” West’s “Ask Me” stickers, Park’s and West’s author visits, the high school’s peer helper program, meetings with community experts and more. Tiger Path Academies will create new opportunities through internships, mentorships and apprenticeships for high school students.
Through these programs, students can experience the rewards and excitement of learning, the opportunity to meet with people in a variety of careers, and the satisfaction that comes from helping others. Jefferson presented us with the challenge to educate our youth. Together we can share with our young people the awesome responsibility of becoming educated and developing the civic values that have helped our nation survive for over 200 years.