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Roycemore’s newly unveiled Portrait of a Graduate serves as the guiding vision for our student’s educational experience. With the three key tenets of Scholarship, Citizenship, and Emotional Intelligence, the portrait emphasizes the skills and habits of mind that we believe are essential for young people to possess to achieve success in a rapidly changing and complex world. As part of our intentional practice, the curriculum and assessment school-wide will be examined to ensure students are supported in the acquisition of these competencies in the years ahead.

This week, we take a closer look at Citizenship.

If one had doubts about the importance of citizenship in a thriving democracy, those doubts likely faded over the last year in the wake of a global pandemic, social unrest and one of the most hotly debated elections in American history. Yet in the educational accountability movement of recent times, emphasis on teaching civics and citizenship have sometimes taken a back seat to subjects that can be more easily assessed and “counted” such as math and science. However, uninformed and unengaged citizens can lead to a society that is dominated by a culture of passive compliance. At best, this can lead to a citizenry that simply accepts the status quo. At worst, an unengaged citizenry can lead to the rise of dangerous ideologies or dogmas that eat away at the very democracy that our founding fathers fought so hard to create.

As Sir Ken Robinson wrote in his book Creative Schools, “Democratic societies depend on informed citizens being actively involved in how (societies) are run and led. For that to happen, it’s essential that young people leave school knowing how society works and in particular how the legal, economic, and political systems operate and affect them.” In line with our commitment to teach students how to communicate, collaborate, and think critically, these skills are vital to one’s ability to be an active and informed citizen. As citizens of a democracy, we have a responsibility to be knowledgeable about the founding documents that govern our democracy and to understand our rights and responsibilities as a member of society. In the words of Ken Robinson, “The skills of citizenship need to be learned and practiced. They also need to be continually renewed.”

Our view of citizenship, in the Portrait of a Graduate at Roycemore, embodies a holistic perspective and aligns with our core values of respect, compassion, integrity and community to embrace both our Roycemore community and the global community. Four aspects of citizenship that we have highlighted in our portrait are:

  1. Curiosity for diverse perspectives: We aim to provide opportunities for students to be exposed to different perspectives and cultural understandings. Students have opportunities to learn from and work collaboratively with individuals representing diverse cultures, religions, and lifestyles in a spirit of mutual respect and open dialogue. We foster curiosity in students by ensuring that different perspectives are included in disciplines across all divisions.
  2. Cultural humility: Students have opportunities throughout their years at Roycemore to learn about other nations and cultures, including the use of non-English languages. Through diverse curricula, discussions with classmates, outside experts and on-campus and off-campus experiences, students gain an understanding of other cultures and recognize how stereotypes and bias can impact one’s ability to appreciate others.
  3. Respect for multiple pathways to understanding: We encourage students to think critically about different ways a problem might be solved through the lens of others’ beliefs and cultures. Students learn that there can be many ways people with diverse perspectives might form their understandings of the world.
  4. Globally-focused problem solving: As students progress from Early Childhood to Upper School, they acquire knowledge and understanding of the world around them, gaining global competencies related to humanity and the environment. Leveraging their cultural humility and appreciation for diverse perspectives, students learn that in order to solve the most complex challenges of our world, they must begin with respect for themselves, each other and the environment. They learn about their relationship with the air, land, food, energy, water and ecosystems. They understand society’s impact on the world including population growth, population development, and resource consumption. With their knowledge and perspective, students then have opportunities to engage in real-world problems. Using a design-thinking approach to solving them, students are able to recognize their own agency to design innovative new approaches that inspire action for real change.

If we are to meet our Portrait of a Graduate vision of ensuring Roycemore students gain important citizenship skills, we must embed citizenship opportunities in their school experience beginning in pre-kindergarten and extending until they transition to become proud alumni. As Kofi Annan, Ghanaian diplomat and the 7th Secretary-General of the United Nations said, “No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts off from its youth severs its lifeline.”

Next week, we will consider our approach to Emotional Intelligence in the Portrait of a Graduate.