Creating Effective Citizens
This position statement, which was prepared by the NCSS Task Force on Revitalizing Citizenship Education, was approved by the NCSS Board of Directors in May 2001.
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:
- Embraces core democratic values and strives to live by them.
- 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.
- 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 and ideas.
- 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 Program
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 school governance.
- 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 the world.
- Preparing students to be effective citizens is explicitly recognized as an important part of the school mission.