What Is Citizenship?

In The Jungle Book, Mowgli learns first from his adoptive family of wolves, then from his friends Bagheera and Baloo, that the Law of the Jungle exists for the good of all. While individual citizens of the jungle each have rights, the Law of the Jungle exists to remind the denizens of the jungle that each of them exist as part of a greater whole and to protect the whole from the danger of those that might elevate their own self-interest above the good of that whole. Students at Great Hearts learn that citizenship sometimes involves subordinating a lesser good for oneself to the higher good of the polis.

A Great Hearts education seeks to cultivate in our students the habit of pursuing virtue. While such a pursuit is truly liberal, in the sense that it is good for its own sake and needs no practical justification, it is nevertheless true that the classical, liberal arts education we provide puts student on the path toward a life of well-informed and virtuous citizenship in whatever community they find themselves.

Citizenship is the virtue of acting for the good of the community.

Students at Great Hearts have many opportunities to embody the virtue of citizenship. Picking up a piece of litter helps keep the school clean and beautiful for every one of our students; raising a hand quietly rather than calling out an answer helps make a student’s classroom a more peaceful place for all. Students in Fifth Grade are provided a special opportunity to display citizenship by serving as Prefects and helping younger students find their way to their classroom or exit door at the beginning and end of each day, raising and lowering the flags in front of the school, retrieving books from the school library, and more.

Examples of Citizenship from the Great Hearts Curriculum

In First Grade, our students learn about Cincinnatus. In the early days of the Roman Republic, during a conflict with nearby barbarian tribes in which the Romans faced total annihilation, Cincinnatus was appointed dictator and given total authority to deal with the crisis. When victory was won, Cincinnatus was so beloved by the people of Rome that he could very easily have made himself king, but instead, Cincinnatus subordinated his own glory to that of his patria, gave up his power, and went back again to his humble life as a farmer.

In Fifth Grade, George Washington is one of the students’ exemplars for the virtue of citizenship. While students learn about Washington throughout their time in the Lower School, our Fifth Grade students discuss Washington’s  special place as the first citizen of the new republic. Washington’s retirement from power after two terms as president has earned him the nickname “the American Cincinnatus.” Both as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and later president, George Washington is a prime example of how an individual’s deep understanding of what it means to be a citizen can reverberate for centuries afterward.

Throughout their time at Great Hearts, students are continually given the opportunity to show the virtue of citizenship by recognizing and celebrating the unique valor and sacrifice of those who have fought and died for their countries throughout history—from the heroes of the Battle of Marathon in Ancient Greece, to the soldiers who fought for American liberty at the Battle of Yorktown,  to the men who died to preserve the union at the Battle of Gettysburg, and many, many more.

Core Virtues