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Responsibility

" To speak today of the defense of democracy as if we were defending something as if we knew and had possessed for many decades or many centuries is self-deception...we should be nearer the mark, and should have a far more convincing slogan, if we spoke of the need, not to defend democracy, but to create it."

E.H.Carr


Winston Churchill's 1950's statement that, "Democracy is the very worst form of government in the world -- except for all the other forms", still seems appropriate. The operations of a democracy are messy. Messy in the sense that democracy is time consuming, expensive, frustratingly filled with commissions and committees, often indecisive, and historically always in transition to a better place. Where this place is, is not known because democracy has no blueprint. Every age, it seems, has new aspirations and new energy to be considered. "Democracy is not a destination -- it is a journey, a road men and women walk that may traverse many terrains....The theme has been one of human freedom -- and there is no theme more crucial to the future of our race" (Watson, 2000, p.9).

J.J. Rousseau warned us that "freedom is an easy food to eat but hard to digest", and he has been proved to be correct. Many civilizations have contributed greatly to the development of democratic principles and individuals have given their lives in support of this impassioned objective. We pursue the rights to "self-mastery and liberation: the inclination to speak openly, communicate freely, pray according to one's beliefs, dance to one's own tune, think as one
pleases -- but to do so in the company of other men and women in a spirit of co-operation". This, it seems, is an "acquired skill and needs to be taught" (Watson). We, as teachers, have responsibilities to both learn how to do this ourselves and to ensure that our students join us.

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Eleanor Roosevelt said in Good Citizenship: The Purpose of Education (1930) "What is the purpose of education? This question agitates scholars, statesmen, every group, in fact, of thoughtful men and women. The conventional answer is the acquisition of knowledge, the reading of books and the learning of facts. Perhaps, because there are so many books and the branches of knowledge in which we can learn facts are so multitudinous today, we begin to hear more frequently that the function of education is to give children a desire to learn and to teach how to use their minds and where to go to acquire facts when their curiosity is aroused.. Even more all-embracing than this, is the statement made not long ago, before a group of English headmasters, by the Archbishop of York, that the`true purpose of education is to produce citizens.'"

"Citizenship is not an activity that an educated person performs as a sideline, but an on-going daily activity that attempts to raise the quality and civility of society and that adds to the richness of a person's life. Democratic society requires that students be prepared for...their roles and responsibilities in society as well " (St. Cloud State University). Eleanor Roosevelt said in an address at the University of Albany in 1938 "the only danger to our democracy is that people will not carry their share of responsibility."Therefore, as a citizen of a democracy, one is compelled to understand what is meant by responsibility.

 

Paper Democracy and Responsibility(PDF file 130KB)

 

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Last Updated: 29-Mar-2004