Inner Moral Character Flowing Into Outward Actions: Reflections on What Confucianism Can Contribute to Global Citizenship Education

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  • There has been a growing interest in links between traditional wisdom and education. This research project is an attempt to explore how and whether concepts in Confucian philosophy can fit into different themes of citizenship in North America with regard to what a good citizen should be. The research project described in this final M.Ed. project makes efforts to combine traditional wisdom and research on modern citizenship education and to extend understanding of what a good citizen might be so as to support educators in finding a new way to think about citizenship education. It is worthwhile to reconsider the question of what a good citizen should be and whom they should serve. By conducting a document analysis of citizenship education research in North America and China, main themes and concepts of what a good citizen should be are synthesized through comparing and contrasting key ideas identified in the literature. Based on those concepts, I provide an alternative interpretation of Confucian philosophy related to being a good citizen. First, scholars in North America emphasize the relationships between individuals and others. It shows a stratified model: individual-community-world. Self and family are missing between individual and community. Before a person connects with community, one first belongs to oneself and family. Confucianism can fill this gap because it emphasizes the way of dealing with relationships in one’s inner heart, in self and others, and in one’s family. Second, research explicitly shows that attitudes and values are an important part of citizenship education in North America. At this point, Confucianism provides significant civic norms, which can enrich the understanding of citizenship education. By combining traditional Confucian philosophy and modern citizenship education, the concept of “citizen” becomes more than possessing civic rights, privileges, participating in elections, or being a recognized subject of a state. Unearthing the meaning of citizen in North America and the meaning of Junzi君子(exemplary person/gentleman) in Confucianism, not only provides another way of thinking about citizenship, but also builds a better understanding of what a good citizen should be in the modern world.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International