“The National Council for the Social Studies believes the core mission of social studies education is to help students become…effective citizens.”

While growing up in Romania during the rule of the dictator Ceausescuc, my friend, Maria, gathered secretly with her family at the risk of imprisonment to listen to the outlawed Voice of America broadcasts. Hearing about the freedoms guaranteed to citizens in what sounded like a mystical place called the United States, Maria vowed she would one day go there. She arrived as a young adult and immediately began a program to study for the goal she had so long dreamed about, American citizenship.

Sadly, most Americans approach the topic of citizenship quite differently. Having been born citizens, we often take it for granted.

Inspiring young people to think about, and practice, engaged citizenship is crucial to America’s future. The Founders believed citizenship education was critical even at the country’s beginning. George Washington said, “A primary object…should be the education of our youth in the science of government…those who are the guardians of the future liberties of our county.”

The National Council for the Social Studies goes so far as to say; “For democracy to survive… 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.”

Civic educators have a noble core mission in this regard! Indeed, the social studies classroom is where students get most of their citizenship education. Our Founders left us an invaluable inheritance; citizenship in a free society. We must educated young people not to be ambivalent about such a gift. We must give them the knowledge and, just as importantly, a vision to value and apply their rights and responsibilities as citizens!

Listed below are the traits of effective citizenship established by the National Council for the Social Studies. How deep does your students’ learning go on these important attributes?

  • Has knowledge of our nation’s Founding documents, civic institutions, and political processes.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Has the ability to collaborate effectively as a member of a group.
  • Actively participates in civic and community life.

When my friend Maria passed her citizenship exam she took the oath of allegiance that all immigrants take to become United States citizens. Read the oath out loud and have your students reflect on their own right and responsibilities as Americans. They will shortly become the “guardians of the future liberties of our country.” Civic educators and social studies teachers must make sure they are ready. It is our noble core mission!

Oath of United States Citizenship

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

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10 Responses to “The Noble Core Mission of Social Studies Teachers”

  1. Comment below for a chance to win a copy of our newest curriculum “Religious Liberty: The American Experiment.”

  2. Lee Eddy says:

    I love those traits of effective citizenship! I think I’ll be printing those out and posting them in my classroom as a reminder to myself of what I am aiming at in my teaching.

  3. nerdgrl says:

    I, too, will be printing them out and posting them in my classrooms. As I teach a number of international students in the process of becoming citizens, it’s always a great topic of discussion.

  4. Carl Gaines says:

    In teaching AP U.S. Government and Politics, we sometimes take for granted the rights and liberties afforded to American citizens as delineated by our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Especially with the current climate of religious indifference aboard, it would be good to emphasize the qualities of “Religious Liberty” that make the “American Experiment” unique in our world culture.

  5. Terry Miller says:

    A really interesting list–i plan to explore these with my AP US History students. I can see them challenging some of them, which should be intresting. They (we) seem more interested in our rights as citizens instead of our responsibilities.

  6. Moving from Taiwan to the US as a young girl my family saw the US as a shining example of how good people can live together peacefully. One of the greatest moments in my life was taking this oath of US Citizenship. The work at the Bill of Rights Institute continues to be important to help our future generation understand the importance of protecting these freedoms.

  7. Jeff Ransom says:

    Was able to use this post with my Boy Scout troop this week; I have never consciously realized the overlap of goals / purposes between my Social Studies class and my Scout Troop. Creating effective citizens takes all of us working in concert

  8. Congratulations to Carl, our contest winner! Thanks everyone for participating – be sure to check the blog frequently for more chances to win – and be sure to tell us what you would like to see more of on the blog too!

  9. jan says:

    I have said for years that not every student will be a scientist or use science or use advanced math but all of them will be citizens. I believe what we teach is invaluable.

  10. Bonnie Wilder says:

    As the DAR State of Maine Constitution Week Chair,
    I will pass along your site to our local chapter chairs.
    The information and commentaries are excellent.
    However, the USA is a “Constitutional REPUBLIC”
    not a “Democracy.” As a retired teacher, I explained this to my students whenever possible. It’s in the Pledge: “…and to the Republic for which it stands.”
    There is a very important difference. The bloody French Revolution was for a “Democracy” if I recall.The Founding Fathers got it RIGHT!

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