Are we teaching citizens or workforce deployment? (280:365)

Owly ImagesI saw a tweet from Chris Lehmann that really made me think. See, his kids at SLA are standing up against the cuts to teachers in the Philadelphia School District. Kids at SLA are steeped in inquiry based learning. They question EVERYTHING! So today, they questioned the budget cuts. Are we ok with this? Unfortunately, I don’t think everyone is… and that is troublesome.


The debate has a long history… do we teach students to be citizens or are we just creating workforce deployment? Honestly, we like to think we are teaching students to become citizens, but mostly we are simply creating the next phase of workers. When you were in school (or if you teach in a school) how often did (or do) you hear people saying things such as:

  • “In the real world you will have to do X,Y, Z” (you fill in the blank)
  • “When you get a real job, you will have to do X, Y, Z” (you fill in the blank)
  • “We are preparing students for College and Career Readiness”

Guess what, if you hear (or say) those things, chances are you are preparing students for workforce deployment. Let’s face it, having a “job” is only a part of your life. So what does it mean to be a citizen? Here are some things we could say and reinforce:

  • We need to be respectful of everyone despite their differences
  • Honesty is necessary for us to trust each other. It could help avoid social and legal issues
  • Compassion is important because sometimes people are sick, hurt or depressed
  • You need to learn responsibility because we need to depend on you
  • Have the courage to do what is right, and stand up for you beliefs


The truth is we do not know what jobs will in the “real” world in a few years, but we do know that the characteristics of a good citizen will help us in many ways. I think education should be more than workforce readiness…. a LOT more!

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