Citizenship Toolkit Section Three: Citizenship Curriculum

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Section Three: Citizenship Curriculum

In 2001 the Corporation distributed to every AmeriCorps program two different citizenship lesson plans created specifically for AmeriCorps: A Facilitator's Guide for By the People and A Guide to Effective Citizenship through AmeriCorps

A Guide to Effective Citizenship through AmeriCorps
A handbook divided into ten two-hour modules based on four elements essential to active citizenship: knowledge, skills, attitudes, and action. Each module has two sessions: a content session provides activities to help members delve into the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of effective citizenship; an action session that guides members through a service project in their community.

A Facilitator's Guide for "By the People"
The lessons and activities introduce citizenship skills and concepts that AmeriCorps members can apply to their own projects in the field. Follow-up sessions will provide opportunity for reflection and evaluation as members report on how they applied citizenship concepts and skills they learned in the classroom.

Since then, approximately 100 AmeriCorps programs took part in a pilot project where, with their feedback, these training materials will be enhanced to better suit the needs of AmeriCorps members and achieve desired programmatic member development outcomes. For example, the enhanced curriculum will closely align with the 2003 AmeriCorps Guidance and will include the review of historic American documents as a way to teach and discuss democratic principles. A complete list of selected historic American documents may be found in Section Four: Resource Directory. Further, the lesson plans from A Facilitator's Guide for By the People and A Guide to Effective Citizenship through AmeriCorps will be re-organized around five thematic areas recommended by the Corporation. These five thematic areas (outlined in detail below) are the Rule of Law; Consent of the Governed; Rights and Responsibilities; Equality and Liberty; and Social Capital and Democracy. The intention is to provide lessons for AmeriCorps that encourage us to reflect on who we are as a nation and to consider why service is vital to our communities and to our nation.

Thematic Areas for Citizenship Lesson Development

Rule of Law
It is often said that in America, the rule of law is supreme. What does it mean to live in a republic that is ruled not by a small group of people or by one person, but by a body of laws? How does one separate lawmakers from the laws they craft in the people's name? How does one assure that people will adhere to the law even if it is not in their own interest, and what are the consequences to the nation as a whole if the rule of law breaks down? How does one assure that we are ruled by laws that are reasonable, and not just the arbitrary whim of one person or even a group of people? The Declaration and the Constitution are key to discussing the rule of law, as is George Washington's Farewell Address. Look at his reasons for stepping down, well before anyone wanted him to or was ready for him to do so. The following links will take you to existing lesson plans that will help guide you through developing training on this theme:

Rights and Responsibilities
According to the Declaration of Independence, each of us has the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and happiness. Does this mean, for example, that each of us has the right to health care? The following links will take you to existing lesson plans that will help guide you through developing training on this theme:

Equality and Liberty
These are two of the prime principles of American Democracy. What does equality mean? Is it, for example, another word for "same"? Do our founding documents promise "equality of opportunity" (that is, everyone is equal before the law) or "equality of results" (that is, everyone should achieve roughly equal results)? Is there any tension between liberty and equality? (That is, are equality and liberty always compatible?) Under what circumstances might they be in tension with one another, and if they are, which becomes more important? The following links will take you to existing lesson plans that will help guide you through developing training on this theme:

Social Capital and Democracy
What institutions are needed to create a healthy democratic life? Can social capital be fostered by each pursuing his or her own individual goals, or must there be common action and beliefs? What happens when the community and individual disagree? What institutions are necessary to build common purpose and express authority and, as the Constitution says, "promote the general welfare"? What role do legitimate authorities (for example, law enforcement, elected officials, the courts, and even institutions such as schools, churches, and community groups) play in building social capital and setting the balance between liberty and responsibility for individual Americans? What is the role of educational, religious, and community institutions in promoting the general welfare? The following links will take you to existing lesson plans that will help guide you through developing training on this theme:

This toolkit, and the materials noted here are only examples of what one could use in incorporating citizenship into member development objectives. AmeriCorps programs are encouraged to make use of whatever materials they find best meet the needs of their program and their members. Programs may utilize the cited materials in their training program or use them as a reference point for current schools of thought in the field of citizenship education.

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