4. Rights and Responsibilities


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Hey everyone, today is Monday October 5th the year of 2020. October Surprise, Aliens are real! (Just trying to be ahead of the news for once.) This is Hispanic Heritage month. A time for us to recognize the cultural contributions from people of Hispanic heritage. 


October is also the month Americans observe as National Disability Awareness Month. It is a time to recognize the accomplishments of persons with disabilities whose work to ensure equal opportunity for all citizens.


And on that note, it is a perfect segue to our podcast today because we are in fact talking about citizenship this month. 


Citizenship is a big topic, so we want to take a Social Emotional Literacy Approach to learning about citizenship and the connection between citizenship and inclusion. 


When we talk about citizenship, we are really talking about two things. Rights and responsibilities. When we use the words “Rights” when talking about our community we are usually referring to freedoms that are protected by law. Citizens have protected rights. Such as the right to free speech and the right to express yourself or the right to run for elected office. Citizens have these rights. And if you think about it in terms of self-awareness, a lot of these rights are about the self or the individual. The same way self-awareness is about you. 


The other thing that comes with citizenship is responsibility. When we are talking about responsibility in this way, we are talking about something someone should do like a chore at home or following a rule at school or helping others in your community. For example, citizens in our country have the responsibility to participate in the local community, pay income and other taxes honestly and on time, and respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others. So, you can see that responsibility is like social awareness, in that it’s not just about you as an individual but about you in relation to others. 


Sometimes, in our culture, when you hear people talking about citizenship, they are referring to a person’s status regarding our country, the United States. If you are a citizen of the united states, then you have rights that are protected by the United States Constitution.

And just so you know the first line of the constitution says, “We the people”. That’s us. The People. Here are some of the rights you are legally protected to have

  • Freedom to express yourself.

  • Freedom to worship as you wish.

  • Right to assembly that means people can get together in groups and talk or protest. 

  • Right to a prompt, fair trial by jury.

  • Right to vote in elections for public officials.

  • Right to apply for federal employment requiring U.S. citizenship.

  • Right to run for elected office.

  • Freedom to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”


Now, here are some of the responsibilities that come with being a citizen. 

  • Support and defend the Constitution.

  • Allow others to express themselves.

  • Allow others to be who they are even if their lifestyles are different from yours.

  • Participate in the democratic process.

  • Respect and obey federal, state, and local laws.

  • Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others even when they are different from yours or your families.

  • Participate in your local community.

  • Pay income and other taxes honestly, and on time, to federal, state, and local authorities.

  • Defend the country if the need should arise.


These are some good rights and responsibilities and there are more. You could see why someone would want to live here and It is important to know that many, many people want to become to citizens of the United States. The rights and responsibilities that citizens enjoy draw or pull people to want to live here. In fact, the rights and responsibilities are so good here they are often called “pull factors” as in they “pull you in”. 


That’s right. And in many places in the world life is very, very hard for people and they do not have the same rights or responsibilities. In fact life can be so hard that they people be willing to risk everything they have including their lives, to be able to try to become citizens of the United States. 


Not having rights and responsibilities can be awful. For many people living in places without these protected rights and responsibilities they may feel like the are being pushed away from where they live. We often call those things “push factors”. 

Jackson: Here are a couple more terms you’ll want to know. The word migration is one you might hear a lot. Migration means moving from one part of something to another.


When it’s people doing the migrating and its migration from one country to another country we may call this immigration. People who are in the process of immigrating may be called immigrants. 


Citizenship in the United States is highly valued. Don’t take it for granted. But it hasn’t always been available to all folks equally. This is a quick interruption to remind everyone to try to use the SEL skill of EMPATHY. 


Just to remind you, EMPATHY means being able to share in the feelings of others from backgrounds, cultures, or situations different from your own. EMPATHY is super important when talking about citizenship and immigration. 


Why is that? Because you should consider that some people chose to come to the United States because life where they were living was very, very hard. It can be very difficult to uproot from the place you were born and move to a new country, a new community, a new language, a new culture. You will want to consider how you would feel if immigration is part of your family story. 


But, some people did not choose to come to the United States. Some people were stolen from their homelands and forced to come in bondage to the United States as enslaved people. You can’t understand citizenship in the united states without knowing about slavery. And you really want to consider how you would feel if that was part of your family story. 


True. You also need to know that there are people in our very own school and in your classrooms whose families have been on these lands since time immemorial. That means they were here long before these lands were even called the United States. This country grew-up around and on top of them. So you really need to consider how you might feel if that was part of your family story. 


So you can see, EMPATHY is very important. Don’t forget to use it.

Jackson: Before we go, let’s look at something really important for us. And that is the rights and responsibilities students have right now in school. 


You have the right to come to school. (or, log in to school)

You have the responsibility to get up and log in on time. 


You have the right to learn. 


You have the responsibility to try to learn and the responsibility to let others learn. 


You have the right to be treated fairly no matter who you are. 


You have the responsibility to treat others fairly also, no matter who they are. 


You have the right to make mistakes and be forgiven. You’re a kid.


You also have the responsibility to work to learn from your mistakes, and to forgive others when they make mistakes too. 


You have the right to come to a safe place and feel safe in this place. 


You have the responsibility to make sure this place is safe for others. If you make it unsafe for others you are not living up to your responsibility and you are stepping on other people’s rights. So don’t do that son. 


You have the right to be provided high quality instruction with high expectations.


You have the responsibility to try your best and be open minded to new learning.


Here are some self and social awareness questions for thinking about citizen ship. 

For social awareness:

Ask yourself: What are my rights and responsibilities in this space or during this activity?

Ask yourself: How do my rights and responsibilities support me for this activity?

Ask yourself: How does knowing my rights and responsibilities help me and others in this space  or during this activity?

For self-awareness you should ask yourself:

What do I think about my rights and responsibilities?

   How do I feel in my body regarding my rights and responsibilities?

       Do my rights and responsibilities allow me to express myself the way I want to?


Rights and responsibilities are a huge part of learning that happens in our community. In fact knowing your rights and understanding and participating in your responsibilities not only builds community but it can help people feel included in communities. 


As we go through this month consider how being a good citizen might make you feel more included in your communities. 


And consider how being a good citizen might help others feel more included in your community. There’s always space to practice being a citizen.


Until next Monday, may your thoughts and feelings be with you. 

((Student musicians! Our podcast needs background music. Do you want to record something and have it on the show? Great! The only requirement is that it needs to be original music and no singing. Singing distracts from talking. If you are interested recording send a note to Mr. Manzo and get your music on this show. Do it. That is all.))

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