Creating Effective Citizens
National Council for the Social Studies believes that a primary goal
of public education is to prepare students to be engaged and effective
citizens. NCSS has defined an effective citizen as one who has the knowledge,
skills, and attitudes required to assume the “office of citizen”
in our democratic republic.
To accomplish this goal, every student must participate in citizenship
education activities each year. These activities should expand civic knowledge,
develop participation skills, and support the belief that, in a democracy,
the actions of each person make a difference. Throughout the curriculum
and at every grade level, students should have opportunities to apply
their civic knowledge, skills, and values as they work to solve real problems
in their school, the community, our nation, and the world. These opportunities
should be part of a well-planned and organized citizenship education program.
Citizenship education is as important today as at any other time in
our history. Citizens in the twenty-first century must be prepared to
deal with rapid change, complex local, national, and global issues, cultural
and religious conflicts, and the increasing interdependence of nations
in a global economy. For our democracy to survive in this challenging
environment, we must educate our students to understand, respect, and
uphold the values enshrined in our founding documents. Our students should
leave school with a clear sense of their rights and responsibilities as
citizens. They should also be prepared to challenge injustice and to promote
the common good.
National Council for the Social Studies is committed to revitalizing
citizenship education in our schools and to empowering all students with
a positive vision of their role as citizens in a democracy.
Characteristics of an Effective Citizen
NCSS believes that the core mission of social studies education is to
help students develop the knowledge, skills, and values that will enable
them to become effective citizens.
An effective citizen:
- Accepts responsibility for the well-being of oneself, one's family,
and the community.
- Has knowledge of the people, history, and traditions that have shaped
our local communities, our nation, and the world.
- Embraces core democratic values and strives to live by them.
- Has knowledge of our nation's founding documents, civic institutions,
and political processes.
- Is aware of issues and events that have an impact on people at local,
state, national, and global levels.
- Seeks information from varied sources and perspectives to develop
informed opinions and creative solutions.
- Asks meaningful questions and is able to analyze and evaluate information
- Uses effective decision-making and problem-solving skills in public
and private life.
- Has the ability to collaborate effectively as a member of a group.
- Actively participates in civic and community life.
Characteristics of an Effective Citizenship Education
NCSS further believes that preparation for democratic citizenship should
be part of the education of every student at every level.
An effective citizenship education program ensures that:
- Civic knowledge, skills, and values are taught explicitly and systematically
at every grade level.
- School and classroom management and culture exemplify and demonstrate
core democratic values.
- Citizenship education is integrated throughout and across the curriculum.
- Students have meaningful opportunities to participate in class and
- All students at every grade level are provided with opportunities
to participate in the civic life of their school and community.
- Learning activities extend beyond the school and invite parents and
the community to participate and work with students.
- Students are provided with opportunities to participate in simulations,
service-learning projects, conflict resolution programs, and other activities
that encourage the application of civic knowledge, skills, and values.
- All students are provided with instruction on our nation's founding
documents, civic institutions, and political processes.
- All students are provided with instruction on the people, history,
and traditions that have shaped our local communities, our nation, and
- Preparing students to be effective citizens is explicitly recognized
as an important part of the school mission.
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