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Teachers constituting the politicized subject: Canadian and US teachers’ perspectives on the ‘good’ citizen

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This study examines how secondary history teachers in the United States and Canada understand their role in promoting citizenship and national identities. Building upon Anderson’s concept of ‘imagined communities’, I argue that compulsory history classes are key sites for imagining the nation and communicating norms about citizenship. While the citizenship education literature has begun to explore teachers’ beliefs about citizenship, researchers in the fields of citizenship education and history education have not examined how history teachers understand the ‘good’ citizen or the place of their subject in forming national identities. I interviewed thirteen secondary history teachers (seven US/six Canadian) to examine their beliefs about citizenship and national identity. I sought to understand how they engage with broader discourses about citizenship and the nation. Twelve of the thirteen teachers described the good citizen in ways consistent with Westheimer and Kahne’s models of the personally responsible citizen and the participatory citizen. US teachers also expressed a desire to foster students’ individual judgement and critical thinking skills, whereas Canadian teachers stressed the importance of fostering national identity as well as students’ responsibility to the collective good.
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Keywords: Canada; United States; citizenship education; comparative research; democratic education; history teachers; teacher beliefs

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Western Ontario

Publication date: 2012-04-25

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  • Citizenship Teaching and Learning is global in scope, exploring issues of social and moral responsibility, community involvement and political literacy. It advances academic and professional understandings within a broad characterisation of education, focussing on a wide range of issues including identity, diversity, equality and social justice within social, moral, political and cultural contexts.
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