GADFLY: The Uncomfortable Truth Of Ambiguity In Reforming Society
November 28, 2020

Using ebooks to Promote Leadership, Civic Education, The Good Citizen, and Contributing to Society

One first thought. Often fiction can be as potent and engaging way to teach about real life as nonfiction.

First, there is the importance of understanding citizenship. The Hawaii Educational Policy Center did a policy paper examining this topic:

Most definitions of citizenship do not use the term Good Citizen, but the sense of basic criteria, standards, or obligations, and idealism, are strongly implied. They have several elements in common:

  1. The Good Citizen has learned and can remember key historical events in the creation and development of democracy, including seminal documents and the ideas contained therein; but it is not enough to have “taken” American and World history courses and scored well on tests.
  2. The Good Citizen has an intellectual capacity to critically analyze ideas, philosophies, and interpretations, and to develop an active habit of mind in evaluating books, texts, media, and all manner of communications; but it is not enough if the knowledge and capacity to think critically are not applied in the real world;
  3. The Good Citizen actively participates in civic life, including political life, but it is not enough to routinely vote every couple of years;
  4. The Good Citizen has an admirable character, genuinely cares about the wellbeing of other citizens in immediate community and the larger society, reflecting idealism and a sense of personal responsibility. In other words, citizenship education is related to character education.

In The Art of Loving, Eric Fromm identified four essential characteristics of the highest level of love, which are excellent criteria for success:

First, you’ve got to KNOW the individual, or the place, or the organization. But that is not enough. Knowledge alone gets you to first base, but not all the way home.

Second, you’ve got to CARE about him/her, or it, to the point where you are sincerely cheering for them. But just knowing and caring can still leave you as a passive observer.

Third, you’ve got to RESPOND to their needs. The hungry must be fed. The homeless must be housed. The sick must be treated. The marginalized must be heard. But knowing, caring and responding can still express themselves as a Know It All – a patronizing colonial power or sorts.

Fourth, you’ve got to RESPECT the object of your love.

In many ways, The Good Citizen tracks these criteria as well.

What does this have to do with this collection of affordable ebooks?

Here are a few elements of these that hopefully contribute to becoming a Good Citizen:

  1. They all teach us to look deeper than first, superficial impressions. For people, for institutions, for ideas. What may appear to be true at first, upon further thoughtful inspection, may not be true at all.
  2. They all teach us that people, human nature, and democracy are complex. Many layers of nuance. Not black and white. Not good vs. evil. They teach us to use logic. To think.
  3. They all teach us to appreciate that society is not easily divided between government and the private sector. The borders are porous. Problems are addressed by people of good will on all sides. Public is partly private. Private is partly public.
  4. They all teach us that Hawaii’s multicultural, multiethnic society, while it has its problems, demonstrates that it is the character and actions of our neighbors that count, not preconceived prejudiced view of them.
  5. They all seek to stimulate thoughtful discussions about the essential questions that Rotary Clubs pose to its members:
    • Is it the truth?
    • Is it fair to all concerned?
    • Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
    • Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
  6. They all invite us to wrestle with the evolving role of the media and technology.
  7. They all present us with contemporary issues:


  1. Poison in Paradise explores sexual harassment, and how this leads to revenge.
  2. Inside the Capitol explores the reasons why making good policy in a legislature is so hard.
  3. A Charter School Story explores the tribal warfare between traditional schools and charter schools.
  4. The Case of the Good Deed explores the overdevelopment of the Kakaako district of Honolulu.
  5. The Case of the Rainforest Reunion explores tragedy of the Opioid epidemic.

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