We are living in a historical moment—with a variety of interconnected global issues: a pandemic, widespread inequality, and climate change. Given the complex and global scale of these problems, we need to prepare our young people to meet these challenges as informed and empowered citizens.
The spread of COVID-19 and the fight for racial justice require collective action, and meeting this call for collective work requires a citizenry that’s empathetic, empowered, and motivated. But building an informed electorate is no easy feat and you may be asking yourself big questions like, “How can we teach tenets of citizenship to the next generation so they understand global issues and are motivated to find solutions?”
Schools play a critical role in educating students, not only about the formal curriculum but about life. One of the most fundamental roles of school in our society is to teach and socialize young people on how to be active members of our democratic society. We must not lose the role of education to prepare students to be informed and engaged citizens alongside the focus on traditional academics and workforce development.
This is the goal of citizenship education.
Citizenship education brings education’s institutional function of creating an informed electorate to the forefront in an interdisciplinary and holistic way. It seeks to cut across all subject areas, integrating many skills and competencies that will benefit students throughout their lives as individuals, community members, citizens, and professionals. Citizenship education can transform society; more thoughtful and engaged citizens lead to a stronger and more just society.
Being a compassionate and engaged citizen has always been important. But now, with our increasingly interconnected world which faces complex global problems, effective citizenship education is imperative. The next generation must be equipped and empowered to face the challenges ahead, on a personal level, at a community level, and on a global scale. Students must think critically about the world around them, and make empowered, informed decisions.
We are not born knowing how to be great citizens, how democracy works, or what is required to ensure it serves everyone. We have to be taught how to be an effective member of a democratic society, the same way we are taught math formulas and how to write an argument.
A tool like Composer makes it easier to teach citizenship education systematically across topics in social justice, civic learning, global competency, and social-emotional learning.
On this platform, educators are able to centrally access a library of high-quality content from thirty leading providers including iCivics, Generation Citizen, Facing History and Ourselves, and High Resolves. They can create individually tailored learning sequences, integrated with curriculum design tips informed by learning science research. This means citizenship education can be taught as systematically and holistically as any core subject.
We can teach our next generation how to be effective citizens through a systematic, intentional, and holistic approach. We must return to the center one of the main functions of school—creating a well-formed electorate.
We must create schools that place just as much value on teaching empathy and building collective action as we assign to solving a math problem and writing five-paragraph essays.
The ability to thrive in our world demands compassionate, motivated citizens, and our future depends on them. When students miss the opportunity to grow into effective members of society, our society suffers. But when young people are given the knowledge, mindsets, and skills that enable effective citizenship, they can change the world for the better.