The Concept of Citizenship in Education for Democracy.
by Patrick, John J.
The concept of citizenship is at the core of education for democracy.
This Digest discusses (1) what citizenship is; (2) why citizenship is an
essential element of democracy; and (3) how to teach about citizenship
in a democracy.
THE MEANING OF CITIZENSHIP.
In a democracy, the source of all authority -- the legitimate basis
of all power -- is the collective body of the people, the citizens of the
polity. There is popular sovereignty of the citizens and thereby government
by consent of the governed. A citizen is a full and equal member of a polity,
such as a democratic nation-state (Mouffe 1995, 217).
In some states or countries, citizenship, the condition of being a
citizen, is based on the place of a person's birth, which is known as "jus
soli" citizenship. In other places, the status of citizen is based on the
citizenship of one's parents, which is known as "jus sanguinis" citizenship.
Some countries use both bases for ascribing citizenship. Further, most
democratic states have established legal procedures by which people without
a birthright to citizenship can become naturalized citizens.
Equality before the law is one fundamental right of the citizen; other
examples are such political rights as voting and participating in public
interest groups. Constitutions may make a distinction between the rights
of citizens and of inhabitants of the political community who are not citizens.
For example, in the United States of America, only citizens have the right
to vote, serve on juries, and be elected to certain offices of the government,
such as Congress. All other rights in the United States Constitution are
guaranteed to everyone residing in the country, citizens and noncitizens
The people of a democratic country or nation-state may have various
and overlapping identities based on such factors of society as religion,
race, ethnicity, social class, and gender. However, the single identity
possessed equally by all citizens of the polity, regardless of differences,
is civic identity. Held in common by all citizens, civic identity is based
on freely given commitment to certain civic principles and values of the
democracy. In countries with widespread diversity in religious, racial,
and ethnic identities (e.g., the USA, Canada, and Australia), a common
and overarching civic identity is the tie that holds citizens together
in a single democratic political order.
WHY CITIZENSHIP IS AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT OF A DEMOCRACY.
Citizenship is the social and legal link between individuals and their
democratic political community. And the status of citizenship entails very
important responsibilities and duties that must be fulfilled; if they are
not, democracy is disabled. The duties of responsible citizenship include
paying taxes, serving in the country's armed forces when called upon, obeying
laws enacted by one's representatives in government, demonstrating commitment
and loyalty to the democratic political community and state, constructively
criticizing the conditions of political and civic life, and participating
to improve the quality of political and civic life. The responsibilities
of citizenship also involve action to narrow the gap between ideals and
realities. For instance, the highest standards for good government in a
constitutional liberal democracy are (1) equal security for the rights
of all persons in the polity, and (2) government by consent of the governed.
Citizens have the responsibility to recognize and overcome contradictions
of ideals concerning equality of rights for all citizens, such as unjust
denial to certain persons or groups of their rights to participate in government
or to fair treatment in the courts of law (Galston 1995, 48).
If citizens of a democracy would have security for their rights, they
must take responsibility for them. First, they must respect the rights
of others. Second, they must act to defend their own rights and the rights
of others against those who would abuse them. And third, they must exercise
their rights in order to make democracy work. The rights to vote, to speak
freely on public issues, and to participate in voluntary organizations,
for example, have little or no significance in political and civic life
unless citizens regularly and effectively use them.
At present, democratic nation-states are the only dependable agencies
for enforcement of their citizens' rights and for the exercise of their
citizens' responsibilities. "Citizenship is the fundamental institution
that connects the individual bearer of rights to the protective agencies
of the state. The civic realm of the state provides the main channels through
which individuals can participate politically and share in governance"
(Klusmeyer 1996, 97).
HOW TO TEACH ABOUT CITIZENSHIP IN A DEMOCRACY.
The concept of citizenship is a key to comprehension of what democracy
is and how it works. Thus, students involved in education for democracy
need to know what citizenship is, how it is acquired or lost in various
political systems, what rights, responsibilities, and duties are entailed
by it, and how it is connected to the institutions of particular nation-states,
especially their own.
But students need to move beyond conceptual understanding to learning
experiences that develop participatory skills and civic dispositions for
exercising the rights and carrying out the responsibilities and duties
of citizenship in a democracy. Three types of participatory skills are
interacting, monitoring, and influencing. Interacting pertains to skills
of communication and cooperation in political and civic life. Monitoring
involves skills needed to track the work of political leaders and institutions
of government. And influencing refers to skills used to affect outcomes
in political and civic life, such as the resolution of public issues. Examples
of civic dispositions are such traits of character as civility, sociability,
honesty, self-restraint, tolerance, trust, compassion, a sense of duty,
a sense of political efficacy, capacity for cooperation, loyalty, courage,
respect for the worth and dignity of each person, and concern for the common
good (Center for Civic Education 1994; NAEP Civics Consensus Project 1996).
Participatory skills and civic dispositions needed for effective and
responsible citizenship in a democracy can be developed through the following
kinds of learning experiences (Conrad & Hedin 1991; Niemi & Chapman
* Student participation in democratically conducted student organizations;
* School-based community service that is connected systematically to
the school's curriculum and classroom instruction;
* Cooperative learning activities in which groups of students cooperate
to pursue a common goal, such as inquiring about a public issue or responding
to a community problem.
A new program that develops participatory skills and civic dispositions
of students in the school or local community is "Project Citizen" (Center
for Civic Education 1996). Participants in "Project Citizen" cooperate
in small groups to identify a significant public issue or problem, conduct
research to become informed about it, examine alternative responses put
forward to resolve the issue or problem, select an alternative response
to the issue as desirable and defend it against interrogators and opponents,
and take action with like-minded participants to influence a practical
resolution of the issue or problem. Thus, participants in "Project Citizen"
learn skills and dispositions that enable them to become constructively
engaged in the political and civic life of a democracy. They are on their
way to achieving competencies that make democracy work to protect individual
rights, to practice government by consent of the governed, and to serve
the common good (Tolo 1998).
REFERENCES AND ERIC RESOURCES.
The following list of resources includes references used to prepare
this Digest. The items followed by an ED number are available in microfiche
and/or paper copies from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS).
For information about prices, contact EDRS, 7420 Fullerton Road, Suite
110, Springfield, Virginia 22153-2852; telephone numbers are (703) 440-1400
and (800) 443-3742. Entries followed by an EJ number, annotated monthly
in CURRENT INDEX TO JOURNALS IN EDUCATION (CIJE), are not available through
EDRS. However, they can be located in the journal section of most larger
libraries by using the bibliographic information provided, requested through
Interlibrary Loan, or ordered from commercial reprint services.
Center for Civic Education. NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR CIVICS AND GOVERNMENT.
Calabasas, CA: Center for Civic Education, 1994. ED 375 074.
Center for Civic Education. WE THE PEOPLE . . . PROJECT CITIZEN. Calabasas,
CA: Center for Civic Education, 1996. ED 405 281.
Conrad, Dan, and Diane Hedin. "School Based Community Service: What
We Know From Research and Theory." PHI DELTA KAPPAN 72 (June 1991): 743-749.
EJ 426 971.
Galston, William A. "Liberal Virtues and the Formation of Civic Character."
In Mary Ann Glendon and David Blankenhorn, Eds. SEEDBEDS OF VIRTUE: SOURCES
OF COMPETENCE, CHARACTER, AND CITIZENSHIP IN AMERICAN SOCIETY. Lanham,
MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1995.
Klusmeyer, Douglas B. BETWEEN CONSENT AND DESCENT: CONCEPTIONS OF DEMOCRATIC
CITIZENSHIP. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,
Mouffe, Chantal. "Citizenship." In Seymour Martin Lipset, Ed. ENCYCLOPEDIA
OF DEMOCRACY, Volume 1. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Inc.,
NAEP Civics Consensus Project. CIVICS FRAMEWORK FOR THE 1998 NATIONAL
ASSESSMENT OF EDUCATIONAL PROGRESS. Washington, DC: National Assessment
Governing Board, 1996. ED 407 355.
Niemi, Richard G., and Chris Chapman. THE CIVIC DEVELOPMENT OF NINTH
THROUGH TWELFTH GRADE STUDENTS IN THE UNITED STATES. Washington, DC: U.S.
Department of Education, 1999.
Tolo, Kenneth W. AN ASSESSMENT OF WE THE PEOPLE . . . PROJECT CITIZEN:
PROMOTING CITIZENSHIP IN CLASSROOMS AND COMMUNITIES. Austin: Lyndon B.
Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, 1998
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