COLUMN: Schools should teach social responsibility

Students must be exposed to courses on social responsibility so they can build foundations that will serve them for a lifetime.

It’s a problem I have seen become more prevalent over the past few months in the City of Surrey: parks becoming dump grounds, drug-dealings sites, and loitering areas for young adults who are up to no good.

Although these are just observations and I do not possess empirical data to state an absolute increase in the lack of civic responsibility, it is evident that many of today’s youth simply do not possess a strong sense of social responsibility towards their community and their environment.

Obviously, parents play an integral role in shaping their child’s perspectives of social responsibility.  However, students spend nearly 30 hours a week in school and a large chunk of their socialization occurs in the school environment. Doesn’t it make sense for B.C. high schools to introduce a weekly class period which focuses solely on social responsibility?

Although this type of program was introduced at my school in Grade 11, the program was scrapped after just a few months.  Though I am not aware of the reason for this change, I am certain that had such a program been implemented for a longer time period, students would have begun to self-reflect on the role of social responsibility in their lives.

Many undergraduate university programs, for example, contain ethics courses. But why limit such studies just to the post-secondary experience?  A lack of social responsibility is not limited to just those students who struggle academically. In fact, white-collar crime is often a problem in our modern society, and many of these criminals were strong academic students. Hence, it is important that all high school students be exposed to courses on social responsibility so they can build the foundations that will serve them for a lifetime.

The B.C. Ministry of Education has some guidelines about social responsibility in its B.C. performance standards. These guidelines discuss how aspects of social responsibility can be integrated into other classes such as humanities and the B.C. graduation requirements.

For instance, students, as part of their graduation requirements, are to complete 30 hours of either voluntary or paid work (although the ministry is now modifying the graduation requirements and seeking community viewpoints on the matter).

Regardless of the changes, a mere 30-hour volunteering requirement alone, for those who choose the volunteering option, does not instill in students a sense of community responsibility. A half-hour weekly class dedicated to social responsibility would help tie together and augment the ideas of ethics and civic responsibility that courses such as social studies and humanities slightly touch on.

While some of the recent proposed changes to the curriculum, which focus on the big picture approach to learning, are commendable, it is important that the B.C. Ministry of Education help in creating the next generation of citizens who are responsible, ethical and aware.

Certainly schools cannot solve all of society’s problems, but they can help form life-long attitudes and give students the tools and techniques to stay away from the cycle of crime and corruption.

Some useful links:

Japreet Lehal is a student at Simon Fraser University Surrey. He writes regularly for The Leader.

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