Citizenship Education for the 21st Century Leveraging the K-6 Developmental Time Window

A. E. Schneider


An online survey of K to 12 teachers, graduate students, and college instructors, ages 18 to 60+, from Western and Non-Western countries, was conducted to measure opinions about and experiences with Citizenship Education (CE). CE is fundamentally defined in this paper as the teaching of individual and collective rights and responsibilities in academic and social contexts in K to 12 schooling (~ 4 to 18 years of age). The purpose of this preliminary research was to develop several core conclusions about CE using literature support and develop a number of basic survey expectations based on some of those conclusions and the experiences of the author. Literature-supported core conclusions included that CE: a) has the power to equip students with the knowledge of their individual and group rights and responsibilities regarding both academic and inter-personal or social pursuits; b) has elements that can be leveraged in many academic and social learning experiences in elementary and secondary schooling; c) is important to citizens as a general rule, but often takes an informal form, which tends to lead to a lack of awareness regarding its value; d) when viewed as ‘engaged learning’, may lack adequate funding, especially in K to 6 schooling; e) is qualitatively dependent upon the degree to which especially K to 6 education is based in facts, critical thinking skills, hard work, respect, and reflection; f) is most effective when started in the K to 6 school years and continued through secondary schooling; and g) in order to be effective internationally needs the world’s educational systems to focus support for foundational academic and social learning and development early in the education lives of children, where it is the most efficient and effective. A conclusion that ties these together is that, while it is ultimately the responsibility of young adults in any society to take over the mantel of power, it is the precursory responsibility of parental generations to prepare young people for this task through continuous lessons, in every possible context, about how to think and act in ways that serve themselves and their communities well. Qualitative analysis of survey results from 28 respondents from 10 countries and 6 age groups indicated a pattern of responses that supported study expectations, including that: a) respondents tended to have CE definitions that centered on creating good and responsible citizens; b) a significant number of respondents (about 1/3) reported experiencing informal CE; c) most respondents reported experiencing some form of CE in elementary or secondary schooling; and d) members of all age groups surveyed felt that CE is important. Given the preliminary nature of the survey investigation, age- and country- based consistency was tested rather than response differences correlated to age or country. Recommendations include doing a more age and internationally extensive survey to check for said patterns and using a better structured survey to check for more precise opinions, especially regarding how CE might have affected respondents’ lives overall and how CE, or a lack there of, may be affecting the adult lives and childhoods of ‘millennial’ and 21st century generations.

Keywords: Citizenship education, Cognitive and social development, Self-determination, Social brain, Return on investment, Sensitivity to learning, Global issue

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