Civics includes the study of the theoretical, political and practical aspects of citizenship, including the rights and duties of each citizen. While the 2016 Presidential Election in the U.S. was contentious, the outcome was that more people have become engaged in the electoral process, including young adults. Experts forecast high voter turnout in the 2020 election. This being the case, socially engaged voters would do well to learn about civics, in order to develop informed positions when taking part in the upcoming election.
The US Constitution is meant to enforce the natural rights of all U.S. citizens, regardless of their race, religion, gender, or other characteristics. A first-year political science course would introduce students to these and other concepts. The essential values of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness were first codified into the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and the Bill of Rights expanded on these concepts.
At the federal level, the United States is a Democratic Republic, where citizens elect representatives who make decisions for them. Every citizen is not only free to take part in elections, but it is also in his or her best interest to do so from an informed position. This may be especially true for immigrants who may have come from more authoritarian homelands.
Civics and civic education
‘Civics’ comes from the French word ‘civique’ which means ‘citizen.’ Essential components of a curriculum in civics include a number of best-practices, often referred to as the Six Proven Practices for Effective Civic Learning framework. These include:
- Provide instruction in government, history, law, and democracy
- Incorporate discussion of current local, national, and international issues and events in the classroom, particularly those that young people view as important to their lives
- Design and implement programs that provide students with opportunities to apply what they learn through performing community service that is linked to the formal curriculum and classroom instruction.
- Offer extracurricular activities that provide opportunities for young people to get involved in their schools or communities
- Encourage student participation in school governance.
- Encourage students’ participation in simulations of democratic processes and procedures.
Whereas some people believe that values, social justice, and democracy are at their best when they are learned actively through experience, it’s commonly believed that schools must be able to encourage ethical behavior and personal responsibility consisting of the freedom of choice and action, and consequently bearing the results of one’s action. Civic education empowers citizens to be well-informed, active and conscious about their rights and duties. Often, the goal of such courses in civics is to empower students to feel responsible for shaping the world around them.
Democracy is a political system that is based on participation in group decision-making. The United States is not actually a democracy at the federal level. In the case of the President, representatives are elected in every state, and the Electoral College determines the outcome, rather than the national popular vote. Civic education equips people with the knowledge to understand the basics of the electoral process. People learn how to protect and support this system of governance and its constant implementation.
Civic education is also used to teach people the most important aspects of the US Constitution. Such an education generally begins with the Bill of Rights but may extend into other areas of the Constitution. The Preamble establishes the purpose of the Constitution, with no force in law. Other sections of the Constitution go on to describe the three branches of government: the Legislative branch, the Judicial branch, and the Executive branch.
Rights and duties of US citizens
All citizens should be aware of their civil rights,so as not to be deprived of their freedom. Among these rights are free expression and a right to a prompt, fair trial by jury. Citizens may vote in elections for public officials, to apply for federal employment requiring U.S. citizenship, and to run for elected office.
As well as rights, every citizen has his/her duties. They are commonly also referred to as responsibilities or obligations. Among the most crucial is a duty to support and defend the Constitution, to participate in the voting process, to stay informed of the issues affecting one’s community and to participate in it, and to respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others. Moreover, every citizen is obliged to obey federal, state, and local laws, which includes taxation, and serving on a jury when called upon.
The Importance of an Education in Civics and Political Science
Civics knowledge is used to better every citizen’s life. It’s an essential component of political science, which is applicable to practice. Interest in Civics arises as an urge to keep the US a free and prosperous nation. In 2020, there will be a battle of ideas to determine the direction of the United States over the next four years. While politicians call every election “the most important election in history,” it may actually be true this time around.