When you first start to teach citizenship, you may be tempted to force a lot of citizenship concepts into the class. The whole point of having an introductory citizenship course is to introduce students to the basics of American society and to encourage them to engage in political dialogue. But can you give your students citizenship at the beginning without also making them citizens? Can you teach citizenship by working in a language that you know almost nothing about?
There are two important citizenship concepts that you will want to explore with your students before they arrive in college. One is representation. Citizens learn what it means to be in a group with shared interests and goals. This is one of the essential features of American citizenship; you cannot be free unless you are represented by other people. This principle is taught with the concept of representation in the community worksheet.
Students begin their discussions about civic engagements with this workbook. They are introduced to the concept of the group and the major issues of representation: who is being represented, how are their needs being met, and what sort of actions should be taken to bring those needs into being? Using the concepts of the group, representation, and decision-making as a jumping off point, students are expected to use various skills to make decisions about their personal lives. They will look at how their college is represented, how they can make a difference by applying to college, and how they can help the community through the values they choose to follow in their personal choices.
It is important for students to understand the point of American citizenship before they enter college. Students should learn the basic principles of citizenship before they encounter the concept of political participation. Once they have grasped the basic concepts of citizenship, they can then look to the questions of social interaction. Can they practice citizenship by working with others as a student, co-worker, or student-athlete? Can they become a citizen through volunteerism, or can they expect to be elected to public office in the future?
Citizenship helps students understand what are the common responsibilities that all people have as members of a group. It is the foundation upon which each of us is born, a great history of which was written by past generations. After all, what would democracy mean if the young adults were not required to take an introductory course on citizenship?
A common good, like the Constitution, is more than just a social institution. It is a historical document that is enacted and applied by humans. While some people try to offer a stable view of a common good, it must be emphasized that there is a difference between what the Founding Fathers intended for the government to do and how the government actually does do it. It is to be noted that the Founders did not intend for the government to provide a better way of life; they merely wanted the government to be representative of the entire population, not a privileged class.
The people that they were trying to represent, however, did not have a social system that reflected their desires. In order to be effective in the area of educating students, you must emphasize that the Founding Fathers did not intend for our society to be representative of the diverse social groups that they designed. You can show this by giving them the worksheet for the community worksheet.
Another way to teach this concept is by using it as an extra credit assignment. In fact, this is a great way to review the community worksheet. If you teach students citizenship as part of your citizenship class, they are bound to end up in some sort of community service or project, perhaps even one they cannot finish. That’s why you should give extra credit for their civic participation with this worksheet.