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Creating Better Citizens for a Better World

Since becoming a mother, I’ve always joked that my only motherhood goal is to raise KSANs: Kind Smart Adorable Nerds—children who are nice, who value education, and who enjoy the finer things in life like, say, reading. Really, though, the emphasis was on kind… if I could manage to raise boys who were above all else kind, I would be content.

It’s starting to look pretty dire out there, though. Climate change. Gun violence. Our, ahem, interesting political climate.

Sadly, I’m starting to think kind isn’t going to cut it.

The world needs kindness, to be sure, but more so it needs those kind people to look around and realize how they can help make their community a better place for all. It needs people who will leverage their education and creativity to innovate for a better world. It needs rabble-rousers. It needs, in short, good citizens.

“A generation that acquires knowledge without ever understanding how that knowledge can benefit the community is a generation that is not learning what it means to be citizens in a democracy.”  Elizabeth L. Hollander

A friend told me a story the other day of a meeting she was in, several years ago, where well-known progressive political strategist Justin Krebs couldn’t have been more adamant that we needed to stop focusing so much on creating leaders and shift the focus to creating a generation of better citizens.

“The only title in our democracy superior to that of President is the title of citizen.” 
Justice Louis D. Brandeis

So, how do we do this? Our first community is the home, and this article has some great tips for how to help your children develop their citizenry skills.

“The most important thing an institution does is not to prepare a student for a career but for a life as a citizen.”
 Frank Newman

IMG_4070As an educator, though, I’m also interested in how schools can help develop good citizens. At Mackintosh Academy, there is a strong commitment to social-emotional development—building empathy is a key component of that. Both Mackintosh campuses are participating in the World Affairs Challenge where the mission is “growing the capacity of youth to think and act globally.” Acquiring knowledge of the world and thinking about all perspectives can be supported through activities such as participating in events such as the National Geographic Geography Bee. Mack-Boulder Science Specialist Charlie Warren is offering an event aimed at helping students develop as Citizen Scientists.

“As free citizens in a political democracy, we have a responsibility to be interested and involved in the affairs of the human community, be it at the local or the global level.” Paul Wellstone

IMG_2153Mack is also dedicated to helping students develop their critical thinking, creativity, and innovation skills. A team of Mack-Littleton students was recently selected to participate in a team-building design challenge at the upcoming Weather and Science Day, and the seventh and eighth graders just completed a simulation of a successful Mars mission at the Challenger Learning Center in Colorado Springs.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

Finally, it is imperative to help students see that their actions can make a difference. Mack-Boulder sixth graders completed an energy efficiency study of the Boulder campus as a part of their energy unit this year, and the study is being used by the school to make major changes to drastically reduce the carbon footprint of the school.

I believe it’s time I change Adorable to Activist. Yep, I could really get behind a generation of Kind Smart Activist Nerds.