Issues that are central to Civics and Citizenship education have been thrown into dramatic relief by the effects of the COVID-19 virus both in Australia and globally in recent weeks. Our thoughts go out to the students, teachers and schools that have been disrupted by recent events and to the families impacted by the associated social and economic effects of the societal lockdown.
n Australia between Federal and State levels of government and layered responsibilities have certainly been more explicit than in normal times and with the formation of a National Cabinet bringing together State and Federal leaders. Students can certainly see that there is such a thing as ‘society’, and that an effectively functioning society relies upon collective as well as individual responsibility.
They learn that rights matter enormously in crisis circumstances, but that rights can be legally curtailed in the cause of ‘the common good’. We have seen some political leaders exercising their powers with resolute and caring sensitivity and other leaders struggling to rise to the enormous challenges that face them.
Young people are likely to be thinking more about how their lives are governed by laws, about the mutual obligations that individuals have to one another, and about the components of good and effective citizenship, than at any other previous time in their lives. And teachers can encourage them to undertake this thinking.
Students will be coming back to their schools with altered perceptions about what things really matter and with questions that relate to fundamental questions about democracy, the law, societal and individual wellbeing, equity and rights and responsibilities.
Citizenship education and the tools and guiding questions of the Civics and Citizenship curriculum will provide some of the structure to assist students with their sense-making and teachers with their educative responses to questions that students will naturally be asking. We are able to best make sense of complexity and crisis circumstances from a strong values and critical thinking base.
Best wishes to educators guiding young people in their thinking (and action) journey through these issues.
Peter Brett, Vice-President of SCEAA, University of Tasmania
Genevieve Hall, President of SCEAA, RMIT