How Shall I raise My Son to be a Citizen of the World?

The following essay was an entry in the Senator Cairine Wilson Citizenship Competition in 1959. There is no record of a winning entry from British Columbia in the National Competition, but two of the original three BC Entries remain. The competition was entitled: “How Shall I raise My Child to be a Citizen of the World” this writer altered this to read: How Shall I raise My Son to be a Citizen of the World”?

Have we continued the philosophy defined here? Are children today better prepared for the world they will live in?

This is my son, welcomed a moment ago by a radio sponsor as our newest citizen.

What is a citizen? To the Romans who gave us the word, it meant freeman, member of a privileged class, as distinct from a slave or foreigner. His training fitted him to sit in the state’s councils and he was responsible for its welfare.

To us, citizenship has meant being a free member of a local community or of a state such as Canada, and we have trained our youth accordingly. But in a rapidly shrinking world where two recent world wars have shown that the actions of a member of another state can alter the destiny of all, we are realizing that it is not enough to think of states as single units. We are now face to face with the necessity of recognizing that we must accept the idea of there being one state – the world. Consequently, our youth must be trained for citizenship in this larger concept.

But where shall we begin? How shall I raise my son to be a ‘freeman’, going in and out among men everywhere, accepted as a friend, trusted in council?

His earliest childhood might well begin with learning to like people – to be interested in them. Cordiality to visitors in his home, encouragement in making friends. Accepting naturally differences in color or race would be planks in a firm foundation for future relationships. These are attitudes to be absorbed rather than taught.

The common ground on which all human life meets is in its two basic urges – survival and freedom. All our needs and actions revolve around satisfying these elemental desires. My son, by realizing his own needs for food, clothing, shelter, medical care can identify himself with people everywhere. Then he can understand that if theses needs are not supplied, suffering and illness follow – even the instinct to fight to get them. We cannot have a good world, a world of peace, from the human standpoint, until some way is found of supplying these needs for everybody.

Achieving this ideal is complicated by the influence of climate, a lack of knowledge or ‘know-how’, lack of opportunity and limited natural resources. There are also problems of ignorance and superstition which enslave men physically and spiritually. Understanding of these facts is basic to any boy who is to be capable of playing a responsible role in such organizations as United Nations, service clubs and church groups where his help will be needed.

Discipline too, he must learn. Two great fields of Law govern human conduct. The first is in Nature where we must obey to survive. The other is in human society where Man has imposed restrictions upon himself in his own interests and those of others. Disobedience curtails the freedom of the transgressor and creates a liability for others.

With enlarged friendships come group activities. Here my son will encounter the maze of problems associated with cooperation, sharing, the right of possession, preservation of self-respect, justice, forgiveness and the courage to uphold what he believes is right. He will need guidance in getting a proper perspective and developing a judgment based on the solid foundation of doing so one would be done by. But such fundamental requirements are necessary for a peaceful world, and they must begin in individual minds.

Group activity also gives opportunity to recognize the achievements of others. In this field, my son may progress to becoming aware of our heritage of creative arts and sciences. Whatever civilization they come from, and however old, their practical expressions represent peoples thoughts and skills. Learning to interpret and appreciate any peoples culture gives the student a universal key by which he may go in and out of men’s minds freely, as a friend.

For his own stability and ability to contribute constructively in mankind’s problems, my son must be familiar with the natural world about him. To observe and to learn to translate is to discover Truth. In this field, his predecessors have made the great strides that have created for man a better life. It is here that benefits are still to be won beyond any present realization. Here too, man has the mechanical means to destroy himself. To forestall fear and superstition, and to be wise in judgement, my son needs to read His mind, reverently and unafraid.

It is in the field of freedom perhaps, that we who are most privileged have much to learn. That there must be freedom from physical bondage, from want, from fear born of superstition, and freedom of opportunity we are agreed. But what is our attitude toward religion – the realm of the soul/ The ideology of every great religion governs the object of worship of its followers. It is therefore, of supreme importance that we examine the spiritual value behind each. Man seeks through his religion to make contact with his Creator. His rituals are his aids along the path. Some are many centuries old. But there are many paths and many rituals. If the purposes of an ideology be compatible with the purposes of peace and brotherhood, then its members should be free to work out their own destiny. I shall hope that my son will find his own path. But may he also have the perception to recognize the purposes of truth and goodwill in any man anywhere and clasp his hand in brotherhood.

And to my son, may you grown ever in stature of human understanding and in the eternal wisdom of loving your brother as yourself. Thus will you be truly a ‘freeman’ – a citizen of the world.”

Summerland Women’s Institute, Summerland, BC

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