Learning About the Rights & Obligations of Citizenship
Government of the people, by the people, and for the people, in Abraham Lincoln's phrase, means that the people have the right to control their government. But this right is meaningless unless they have the knowledge and skills to exercise that control and possess the traits of character required to do so responsibly.
A free society must rely on the knowledge, skills, and virtue of its citizens and those they elect to public office. Civic education, therefore, is essential to the preservation and improvement of American constitutional democracy. - Center for Civic Education
In Civics classes, students learn about the rights and obligations of citizenship at the local, state, national, and global levels and the history of our nation as a democracy.
Students learn about the United States Constitution, which organizes our national government into three independent branches of government:
- Executive Branch - Led by the President of the United States.
- Legislative Branch - Congress, which is divided into the Senate and the House of Representatives.
- Judicial Branch - The federal court system, which is made up of the United States Supreme Court and a network of courts below it.
Students can conduct civic research by visiting the virtual national repositories listed below to view documents that record the history of democracy in the United States:
- Video: Why Democracy Starts Here (11 min)
- The Charters of Freedom - The Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, and Bill of Rights.
- Information for Educators and Students
- The National Archives Experience for Teachers and Students
- Today in History
- First Daughters: Letters Between U.S. Presidents and Their Daughters (Book discussion, 67 min)
- Memo to the President-Elect: How We Can Restore America's Reputation and Leadership (Book discussion, 55 min)
- Creating the United States
- Teachers Page
We believe public education is the cornerstone of our republic. Public education provides individuals with the skills to be involved, informed, and engaged in our representative democracy.
—NEA vision, mission, and values statement
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- Checks and Balances
(video, 1 min)
From the Center on Congress.
- Citizenship (Grades 4-12)
Find out about attitudes and actions that lead to responsible citizenship. From the Congress for Kids Web site.
- Civics Lesson Plans
Ideas from the New York Times Learning Network.
- Civics Quiz
Find out if you are more knowledgeable than the average citizen. From the American Civic Literacy site.
- Confronting Controversy
Liberty and personal freedom are hot issues in the classroom. From NEA Today.
- Courting Kids
Retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor talks with NEA Today about civics education.
- The Election: Classroom Activities
Materials from Education World.
- Government's Greatest Achievements of the Past Half Century
- NEA Tribute to Justice John Paul Stevens
Justice Stevens’ authored nearly 400 majority opinions, many of them protecting the rights of education employees and students.
- Executive Branch
Led by the President of the United States.
- Legislative Branch
Resources for Teaching About the Legislative Branch of the Federal Government
- Judicial Branch
The system of courts that decides arguments about the meaning of laws, how they are applied, and whether they violate the Constitution.
- National Constitution Center
Resources for educators and a civic learning blog.
- Center for Civic Education
- Center on Congress
- Center for the Study of the American Constitution
- Interactive Constitution
Provides search and explanations for specific passages in the Constitution.
- Facing History and Ourselves