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Home > Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools > What is Citizenship Education?

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What is Citizenship Education?

Definitions of Citizenship Education

From the Youth Voice and Leadership Subcommittee:

How about calling it the Maine Task Force on:

SOCIAL CHANGE? Social Education? Advocacy? COMMUNITY involvement? GETTING THINGS DONE? HELPING OTHERS HELP THEMSELVES? SERVICE? Volunteering? POLITICAL ACTIVISM? leadership? voting? VOTE OR DIE? BEING ACTIVE IN GOVERNMENT? Raising Your Voice? GETting involved? KNOWing about your government? BOYCOTTING? Donating to charities? Going to Community Meetings? Working on political campaigns? Writing to representatives? WRITING TO NEWSPAPERS? Encouraging others to get involved?

What is Civic Engagement? A working definition from a student perspective

There is certainly not consensus on this definition. Nevertheless, we propose it as a talking point, and to help clarify the meaning of this term throughout this document.

  • Engagement is more than 'just volunteering' - though volunteering can be engagement.
  • Engagement is more than 'just voting' - though voting can be engagement.
  • Engagement is a combination of Voice, Action and Reflection.
  • Engagement exists when individuals realize that they have responsibilities not only to themselves or their families, but to their communities - local, national and global. They recognize that the health and wellbeing of those communities is essential to their own health and wellbeing. They act in order to fulfill those responsibilities and try to impact those communities for the better. And in turn, those actions give them an even deeper understanding of the interdependence of themselves and their communities.

From the soon to be published Raise Your Voice Lessons Learned Publication through Campus Compact By Tara Germond, Ellen Love, Liz Moran, Stephanie Raill. Sherita Moses

From the 121st Maine Legislature Study Commission Report

Citizenship education is not necessarily the same as "civics." State civics or government standards, which guide instruction in nearly every state, generally describe the knowledge needed for a basic understanding of government and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship such as voting. Citizenship education is a more comprehensive approach aimed at instilling in students the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary for effective civic participation.

Civic knowledge is a key component of citizenship education, but equally important are opportunities for students to practice civic skills such as problem solving; public speaking; consensus building; and discussion, writing and reflection on controversial issues. The attitudes or dispositions of effective citizenship - belief in liberty, equality, civil and human rights, personal responsibility and the common good; traits of courage, fairness, honesty, integrity; a sense of personal efficacy; and many others - are nurtured through young people's relationships with adults, through their participation in democratically governed schools, through service-learning (community service linked to the formal curriculum) and work on real community problems, and through discussion and reflection on democratic values. And students' acquisition of civic knowledge can be enhanced by linking classroom instruction to real-world issues through discussion of current policy debates and policy proposals and attendance at school board or city council meetings

From the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools:

Civic learning teaches the fundamental ideas of American democracy and prepares young people to take on the rights and responsibilities of self-government. Yes, it instructs students in the facts, perspectives, and procedures of government, history, and law, but civic learning extends far beyond "how a bill becomes a law." Civic learning encourages students to practice democratic processes; it invites critical thinking and discussion of complex issues; it offers opportunities for students to get involved in the life of their communities.

From NACE (National Alliance for Civic Education):

"Civic Education" means the multiple process through which children and young adults acquire the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that are needed for effective democratic citizenship. Civic knowledge and participation are not passed down through genetic code-they require that each generation of students learn civic facts, explore democratic ideals and connect such concepts to the responsibility of citizenship.

From the American Youth Policy Forum 2005 Report:

The process of acquiring (1) knowledge about American polity, politics and government, and about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship; (2) skills in understanding political communication and civic participation; and (3) the dispositions or motivations necessary to be engaged, not merely passive participants. This education takes place primarily in the classroom and school but is contextualized through participation in community and civic life.

Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools: Education for Democracy