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Individual Responsibility and Civil Involvement with Others


Individual responsibility and civil involvement with others are traits that grow with the opportunities to share mutual tasks in a democracy.  These tasks should be accomplished in a orderly fashion for the welfare of the group.  The work should encompass personal independence and individual rights while accommodating the responsibility necessary to maintain group orderliness.

Checklist of Observable Behaviors

___ 1. Reliability

___ 2. Trust (competency, commonality, propriety, intent)

___ 3. Self-control

___ 4. Sensitivity to group needs and group problems

___ 5. Promoting the best interests of the group (accountability) (key words: comprise and accountability)

___ 6. Consciously and voluntarily following all procedures adopted by the group (key words: following group procedures)

___ 7. Positive participation

___ 8. Patience

___ 9. Cooperative learning techniques

___ 10. A behavior appropriate to the situation

___ 11. Sense of community within a classroom or a school, or fostering stronger ties for the student with the community beyond the school; community service and involvement

___ 12. Civil non-participation when appropriate (against your beliefs)

___ 13. Contributing one’s own identity and uniqueness to the group process


            Good, C. V. (1973). Dictionary of education. New York: McGraw Hill.

General Example

Several key areas of learning can help educators focus on encouraging a sense of social responsibility and civil engagement: cooperative learning techniques, nonviolent management or resolution of conflict, multicultural education, environmental education, global education, the creation of a sense of community within a classroom or a school, and fostering stronger ties for the student with the community beyond the school (La Farge, 1992, p. 348).

A teacher might use a specific person as an example who could illustrate individual responsibility and civil involvement with others. A good example of these skills is Mahatma Gandhi, who was the personification of responsibility. Starting from the fact that he was one of the few men in history to fight simultaneously on moral, religious, political, social, economic, and cultural fronts, the teacher might focus on the idea of responsibility.

As a moralist, Gandhi was preoccupied with personal integrity and individual responsibility. He had great difficulty in coming to terms with the need for collective discipline and the moral compromises required by membership of the state. Gandhi claimed that every citizen was responsible for his actions and that responsibility was in no way diminished by what others did or did not do.

However, in his opinion it was wrong to say that what an isolated individual did had no wider consequences. For Gandhi it was the citizen’s sense of moral responsibility for his own actions that ultimately determined the character of the state. Men were responsible for one another, and if one of them turned delinquent, the rest could not disown their equal responsibility for his behavior. Even as a wrongdoer must search his conscience, the others  must probe theirs.

The slow and painful task of cultivating and consolidating the sense of humanity, and thereby laying the foundations of a truly moral community, was an essentially collective responsibility. In Gandhi’s view the citizen is responsible for the actions of his government.  The citizen is a party to its actions and partly responsible for their consequences. A citizen cannot hide behind the façade of collective responsibility, for it is composed of and does not replace individual responsibility (Parekh, 1989).

Classroom Example

The teacher can involve high school students in activities in which they can play the teacher role. For instance, the students may create hands-on science activities. By demonstrating them to younger students, the high school students show individual responsibility in their work because they are playing the teacher role. This activity provides opportunities for civil involvement with others through engaging the younger students in the hands-on activities.


            La Farge, P. (1992). Teaching social responsibility in the schools. In S. Staub & P. Green (Eds.), Psychology and social responsibility: Facing global challenges (p. 348). New York: New York University Press.

            McLaughlin, J. (1999). Ocean Exhibits . INTIME: Integrating New Technologies Into the Methods of Education. [On-line]. Available: 

            Parekh, B. C. (1989). Gandhi’s political philosophy. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.