Social Sciences Education

Civics: Citizenship

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Citizenship education is framed by Center for Civic Education as "Civitas" from the latin, meaning the state of the citizenry and the nation. A healthy civitas is the purpose of citizenship education. It is defined as having three aspects:

Civic Virtue

When Monarchs ruled Europe, on the monarch's personal virtue mattered. With the advent of democracy, the civic virtue or communal ideology matters. Constitutions became important in defining the public virtue of republics. Laws had to be obeyed for the sake of conscience, rather than fear of the ruler's wrath. In a republic, people must be persuaded to submit their own interests to the government, and this voluntary submission constituted the most fundamental notion of civic virtue.

At its core, civic virtue is the necessity to place the public good above private interest. Such "civic" virtue is different from personal virtue, although without personal virtue, the kind of communal civic virtue is arguably, unrealizable. The following are the types of civic virtue that should be promoted through lessons, service-learning activities, and teacher modeling:

  • civility (including respect for others and the use of civil discourse);
  • individual responsibility and the inclination to accept responsibility for one's own self and the consequences of one's own actions;
  • self-discipline and the adherence to the rules necessary for the maintenance of American constitutional government without requiring the imposition of external authority;
  • civic-mindedness and the willingness on appropriate occasions to place the common good above personal interest;
  • open-mindedness, including a healthy sense of skepticism and a recognition of the ambiguities of social and political reality;
  • willingness to compromise, realizing that values and principles are sometimes in conflict, tempered by a recognition that not all principles or values are fit for compromise, since some compromise may imperil democracy's continued existence;
  • toleration of diversity;
  • patience and persistence in the pursuit of public goals;
  • compassion for others;
  • generosity toward others and the community at large; and
  • loyalty to the republic and its values and principles.

Civic Participation

The goal is not to simply increase the rates of civic participation, but to nurture competent and responsible participation.

Civic Knowledge

Relevant knowledge is the foundation of civic virtue and participation.

Multicultural Education

Individuals are initially socialized within families and their communities where they learn their initial values, perspectives, attitudes, and behaviors. Schools are often the first stop on ones path to active citizenship because it is in school where students come in contact with individuals different from themselves. The family and community provide a touchstone as individuals adapt to a changing, larger society. Families and community can also restricts individual's freedom and their ability to make critical choices about their personal and civil values.

Multicultural education helps students understand and affirm their community cultures and helps to free them from cultural boundaries, allowing them to create and maintain a civic community that works for the common good. Multicultural education seeks to actualize the idea of e pluribus unum (out of many,one) within our nation and to create a society that recognizes and respects the cultures of its diverse people, people united within a framework of overarching democratic values. A unified and cohesive democratic society can be created only when the rights of its diverse people are reflected in its institutions, within its national culture, and within its schools, colleges, and universities. A national culture or school curriculum that does not reflect the voices, struggles, hopes, and dreams of its many peoples is neither democratic nor cohesive. Divisiveness within a nation-state occurs when important segments within its society are structurally excluded and marginalizes.

Multiculturalism and Cultural Literacy

In what is known as the “culture wars,” Multicultural Education and Cultural Literacy are depicted in the education literature as opposing forces in the fight for the minds and hearts of American youth and the future of civilization. In the extreme, advocates of Cultural Literacy are depicted as promoting the superiority of Western civilization and U.S. culture in much the same way Hitler promoted German superiority. In the extreme, multiculturalists are likewise portrayed as moral relativists who fail to appreciate the unique advancements in civilization brought about by the democratic and intellectual traditions of the West that are reflected in American culture today.

Both Multicultural Education and Cultural Literacy are vital to the character and citizenship development of culture. Both provide insights into the shared human experience. Your students should come to appreciate the values, traditions, and history of the United States, with its rich evolving multicultural and intellectual traditions. At the same time, your students should appreciate the contributions of other societies to the ascent of humankind.

Appreciation of the uniqueness of others and their cultures is at the heart of multiculturalism.


At CivicEd, you can find multiple resources that will help you conceptualize the key concepts that students should acquire about government.

CivicEd Middle Sch0ol Lesson plans

American Heritage Foundation

NEH-EdSitement Lesson Plans

Civics Online

Go to Character Education




History Home Page

Geography Home Page

Civics Home Page



Civics Videos

Civics Webquests


The NCSS Themes of Social Studies

The NCSS Democratic Beliefs and Values

The NCSS Essentials of Social Studies Education

Sunshine State Standards