CHAPTER 4 INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITIES AND CITIZENSHIP

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CHAPTER 4INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITIES ANDCITIZENSHIPBy Fredricka L. StollerIn civic education curricula, citizenship and individual responsibilities is an important theme.Discussions about the role of citizen participation at local, state, and national levels usually lead toprovocative questions such as these: What does it mean to be a good citizen? What is the importance ofbeing an informed citizen? To what extent should citizens participate in society and politics? Recently,questions about world citizenship and individual responsibilities--to ensure a safe and sane world--havebeen raised. In this lesson, students will explore select aspects of this theme. While discussing citizenshipand individual responsibilities, students will learn associated vocabulary and concepts. As a result of thiscontent-based lesson, students will not only improve their language skills, but they will also gainknowledge about this important and timely theme. The lesson outlined here can be used by teachers in avariety of ways: They can use it as a single, stand-alone lesson; they can design a series of connectedlessons that explore the theme in more detail; or they can develop a thematic unit that examines the themefrom a variety of perspectives over a longer period of time. These lesson plan ideas are meant to serve as aspringboard for teachers interested in introducing the theme of citizenship and individual responsibilitiesto their students.BACKGROUND INFORMATIONDiscussions of citizenship and the responsibilities that accompany it are common in civic educationcurricula. An exploration of these topics can take on many dimensions, though it is important for studentsto understand, early on, that being a citizen is not simply limited to having a passport from the country inwhich one is born, or being a resident of a particular city, state, or country. Citizenship implies certainrights (e.g., legal, political, social); it also implies responsibilities, including placing the well-being, orcommon good, of society before private and personal interests.When exploring citizenship and individual responsibilities, classroom teachers can shape lessons toexamine a range of perspectives. Some teachers interested in this topic divide responsibilities into twoareas: personal and civic. Personal responsibilities include taking care of oneself, accepting responsibilityfor the consequences of one’s actions, taking advantage of opportunities to become educated, and fulfillingresponsibilities to one’s family, friends, and neighbors. Civic responsibilities, on the other hand, compriseobeying laws, respecting the rights and opinions of others, paying taxes, serving in the military, voting, andbeing informed and attentive to the needs of one’s community and nation. Civic responsibility can alsoinclude the obligation to be honest, compassionate, tolerant, fair, trustworthy, respectful, open minded, andopen to negotiation and compromise.englishprograms.state.gov30Menu

Other discussions of responsible citizenship center around the issue of participation in society at local,state, and national levels. Responsible citizens are often said to be active socially and politically. Socialactivity might entail joining citizens’ groups that are devoted to solving societal problems, such ashomelessness, race relations, or neighborhood crime; social activity could also involve volunteering in alocal hospital, school, homeless shelter, or senior citizens’ home. Political activity is quite different fromsocial activity. Students need to understand that political activity usually refers to more than the simple actof voting in periodic elections. It might entail talking about public issues; writing letters to public officials;presenting a problem to a governmental council; staying informed about important issues by reading thenewspaper, listening to television news, or attending public meetings; or getting involved in a politicalcampaign.Recent discussions of responsible citizenship have taken on new dimensions and have e

32 additional quotations on citizenship and individual responsibilities, or assign quotations from the appendix to more than one group. Teachers may simplify the vocabulary of original quotations, without changing the meaning, to make them accessible to their students.

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