Educating for Social Responsibility

• Below is my post to Educational Leadership journal in response to three questions posed about ‘Educating for Social Responsibility’, the theme of its May issue. – MM

Educational Leadership journal

EL: What role should schools play in helping students develop a sense of social responsibility?

My response: Schools, and teachers in particular, need to disavow themselves from the notion that Social Responsibility (SR) is somehow ‘teachable’. It is not, and it should not be considered as such, IMO. However, people of all ages learn SR throughout their/our lives, and, in my experience, they are most likely to experiment with new forms of SR in their lives when it has been modeled for them, or when they have been exposed to a new form of SR and its intrinsic value is axiomatic. Ergo, Schools and all other learning organizations, from daycares to 12-step programs to seniors centers, should strive to expose people to opportunities to see new models and forms of SR, which will provide their own unique insights and learning for any observer with a pulse.

How can educators fulfill this role while also helping students meet curricular requirements?

Me: By guiding educators to model SR and expose students/learners/members to new examples of it in action, and NOT dictating that SR is to be ‘taught’ with the aid of lesson plans, overheads and assignments. That notion is offensive to the human psyche, no matter how young and crudely formed, and it will succeed mainly in alienating students/learners/members from ever engaging in their own form of SR. SR is, of course, a kind of morality that is influenced by a constellation of factors; encouraging it requires sensitivity and, above all, skillful artistry. Accordingly, assigning grades and homework in SR will inversely affect the outcome: the more you impose this as a hard-coded learning objective the less likely an educational institution or teacher will actually foster SR.

Describe your experiences in inculcating SR as a teacher

Me: I am a 20+year K-12 innovative educator in British Columbia Canada; I don’t refer to myself as a teacher because I generally do very little teaching. I prefer, instead, to be considered as a learning consultant or learning coach because that is what I deliberately spend most of my time doing, when working. It is challenging, joyful and ever-engaging, and I consistently expose my learners and parents to instances of Social Responsibility, and I strive to model it myself in my own life, and share that with them. Engaging in acts of SR in one’s own life brings rewards far greater than school grades, gold stars or financial, and I truly believe that learners young and old understand this best when it is NOT taught but absorbed. I find abundant examples of SR in my community, online and from the learners with whom I engage.
– Sincerely, Michael Maser


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