Citizenship education is hard for me to wrap my head around. I do not remember being taught it in school, I do not remember any mention of what it takes to be a citizen. I briefly recall something about making a list what it means to be Canadian. The list included stuff about being friendly, polite, saying eh, knowing how to skate, and liking maple syrup. This list sounds like something made by those in middle school but in fact we were in grade 11 or 12, and the discussion had nothing to do with social studies, or citizenship education, it had to deal with a poem read in an English class. Not once was there any discussion about what it means to be Canadian, how to become a Canadian, our rights as Canadians, or how current events were impacting citizenship.
The last election was in 2011, you would think that this would lead to some discussion about politics, but the only mention of politics was that the teachers in my school made a collective decision that they would not discuss it with students because they did not want to influence our opinions. That is all that was said. We learned nothing about the parties, about those running, we did not even talk about how the provincial government was designed, anything about politics were not discussed in any grades, in any forms.
Bill C-51 was big in the papers this spring, my little brother was in grade 10. Besides what he seen on TV and the internet he knew nothing of this bill. When it was brought up in school the teacher he had referred to the agreement that was made back in 2011. The teachers would not talk about politics, this meant more than I realized by in grade 12. Everything can be political depending on your point of view, as I inquired a little more about what the teachers considered by political discussion I found out this meant anything that was being discussed in the house of commons unless directly related to an outcome.
I think this is because schools are so worried about offending someone than they often forget about what the students need. Teachers do not answer to their students, they answer to the parents, principals, STF, government and school boards. In a small town it is easy to offend parents when you teach anything that differs from the small town perspective, and parents can make a teachers life a nightmare in a small town. Teaching about democracy without using elections seems silly, but it seems just a silly as having half a town mad at a teacher because they brought up the wrong discussion in class.
Schools have an opportunity to use current events, but maybe there are situations when those current events will cause more problems than anything else. Teachers know their school, students and community, while some schools are open to teaching citizenship and democracy using real situations, others are aware it will do more damage than good.