What does it mean to be a citizen of this world, of our community, and of our future? What does “citizen” mean, anyway? And what is the role of schools in growing citizens—or what should it be?
The current reality facing schools is one of rapidly changing social and political conditions that affect educators, students, and communities as a whole. Whether it’s a question of how personal choices impact collective health, or finding the right balance in helping a school community process and respond to current events, school leaders are grappling with the role of educators in teaching citizen behavior in the classroom. Does our current “civics” curriculum go far enough in helping students identify ways they can become engaged members of a thriving society? Or is “civics” just the tip of the iceberg, leaving the larger topics of developing personal agency and community engagement unexplored in our schools?
In this episode, Tim Fish and Lisa Kay Solomon are joined by Baratunde Thurston, award-winning writer, activist, comedian, and host of the podcast How to Citizen With Baratunde. Together, they explore the idea of changing our mindset about the word “citizen,” from engaging with it as a noun to treating it as a verb—a set of guiding principles that can be translated into actions each person can take to contribute to society. Rather than thinking about “citizen” as describing where someone is from, Baratunde argues that we should think about it as describing how people behave as members of a community, and that schools should take an active role in helping students develop proactive citizen behaviors that will serve them, and their communities, well.
Baratunde shares his “four pillars” of How to Citizen, as well as personal stories about how his experiences as a student at an independent school shaped his own worldview and citizen behaviors. He also explores ideas about the different ways in which school leaders, educators, and students can understand the concept of power and how both individuals and institutions can exercise power effectively. Lisa, Tim, and Baratunde delve together into questions about how schools can create environments that encourage students to clarify their own perspectives, engage in respectful debate, and find ways to participate in creating the change they want to see in their communities.
Some of the key questions Tim and Lisa explore in this interview about growing citizens and developing thriving citizen behaviors at school include:
In This Episode:
About Our Guest:
Baratunde Thurston holds space for hard and complex conversations with his blend of humor, wisdom, and compassion. Baratunde is an Emmy-nominated host who has worked for The Onion, produced for The Daily Show, advised the Obama White House, and wrote The New York Times bestseller How To Be Black. He’s the executive producer and host of How To Citizen with Baratunde, which Apple named one of its favorite podcasts of 2020. Baratunde also received the Social Impact Award at the 2021 iHeartRadio Podcast Awards on behalf of How to Citizen with Baratunde. In 2019, he delivered what MSNBC’s Brian Williams called “one of the greatest TED talks of all time.” Baratunde is unique in his ability to integrate and synthesize themes of race, culture, politics, and technology to explain where our nation is and where we can take it.
Baratunde serves on the boards of BUILD and the Brooklyn Public Library and lives in Los Angeles, California.
Follow Baratunde on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @baratunde
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