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4: Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens

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    Supporting Question

    What is the role of the individual in maintaining a healthy democracy?

    "A citizen is a participatory member of a political community. Citizenship is gained by meeting the legal requirements of a national, state, or local government" (quoted from Center for the Study of Citizenship, Wayne State University, 2021).

    In the United States, both citizens and non-citizens have rights and responsibilities in their civic, political, and private lives; that is, they enjoy the freedoms of a democratic society while having responsibilities they are expected to perform including obeying laws, voting in elections, working with elected leaders, engaging in peaceful protest, and affirming the fundamental principles of American political and civic life.

    U.S. history has numerous examples of individuals who showed political courage and leadership in support of democratic values and freedoms, but it also includes multiple times when individuals and groups failed to live up to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. In modern society, public and private interest groups, political action committees, and labor unions more than individual citizens play powerful roles in lobbying for social and economic change.

    In the video below, Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Neil Gorsuch discuss the importance of citizenship and voting (Note: The YouTube version of the video does not provide closed captions. For the original video with closed captions, go to the CBS News page).

    Topic 4 explores the rights and responsibilities of citizens in our democracy. It consists of 13 modules ranging from how to become a citizen to the different ways that each of us can actively participate in political and civic life through voting, public service, political protest, and membership in public and private interest groups.

    • 4.1: Becoming a Citizen
      The process for becoming a U.S. citizen. The question of what it means for Puerto Ricans to be citizens when Puerto Rico is not a state. Controversies over when someone should be granted asylum in the United States.
    • 4.2: Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens and Non-Citizens
      The responsibilities of citizens, and the specific rights of citizens and non-citizens. The suspension of rights of Japanese Americans interned in camps by the U.S. government during World War II. The question of which individuals or groups deserve a national day of recognition for fighting to establish and preserve civil rights and civil liberties.
    • 4.3: Civic, Political, and Private Life
      The distinctions between civic, political, and private life. The impact on these areas of life from COVID-19 policies, women's participation in politics, and proposed policies of guaranteed jobs or universal basic income.
    • 4.4: Fundamental Principles and Values of American Political and Civic Life
      Exploration of four of the shared principles and values of American political and civic life: equality, rule of law, limited government, and representative government. How the 14th Amendment to the Constitution has extended these principles and values to African Americans and other marginalized groups. The protections and limits of students' rights at school.
    • 4.5: Voting and Citizen Participation
      How who votes or doesn't vote is impacted by voter apathy and lack of access to votes. Limitations on the voting of African American and other minority groups through poll taxes, literacy tests, and voter restriction laws. Possible methods for increasing voter turnout, especially of young people.
    • 4.6: Election Information
      The influence of persuasion, propaganda, and political language on elections. The history of presidential debates in U.S. elections. The issue of whether campaigns should be publicly financed.
    • 4.7: Leadership and the Qualities of Political Leaders
      Examples of political leadership as an appointed official (Frances Perkins), an activist (Margaret Sanger), and an elected official (Harvey Milk). The contributions of Black inventors such as Benjamin Banneker and George Washington Carver to math, science, and politics. Who people today consider the most famous Americans.
    • 4.8: Cooperation between Individuals and Leaders
      How ordinary people can effectively communicate their concerns to their political leaders. Includes examination of contacting members of Congress, the changes achieved by youth activists, and the effects of boycotts and buycotts.
    • 4.9: Public Service as a Career
      Options for a career working for local, state, or federal governments, with an emphasis on education. Brief examination of the history of public education in America and the importance of teaching as a career.
    • 4.10: Liberty in Conflict with Equality or Authority
      Attempts in the United States, both historically and in the modern day, for marginalized individuals and groups to gain the freedom they need to be full participants in a democratic society. Includes an overview of the civil rights movements for African Americans, Latinos, women, workers, and LGBTQ people; a case study of the U.S.'s annexation of Hawaii; and controversies over the rights of transgender students in K-12 schools.
    • 4.11: Political Courage and Those Who Affirmed or Denied Democratic Ideals
      Case studies of individuals who displayed political courage and affirmed democratic ideals through their actions: Joseph Cinque and John Quincy Adams in the Amistad case; John Scopes; Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and Larry Itliong in the Delano Grape Strike; and Claudette Colvin. Cases in American history where democratic ideals were denied, including race massacres, the Indian Wars, and McCarthyism and the Red and Lavender Scares.
    • 4.12: The Role of Political Protest
      Forms of political protest, including the civil disobedience practiced by Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.; the struggles against child labor, discrimination towards LGBTQ oppression, and environmental racism in the form of the March of the Mill Children, Stonewall Uprising, and Standing Rock Pipeline Protest; and the impact of anti-war literature and protest songs.
    • 4.13: Public and Private Interest Groups
      How interest groups, political action committees, and labor unions can influence public policy. Case study of the impact made by the Pullman Strike of 1894, which affected railroads across the nation. The role of money in elections, and where it can be sourced.

    This page titled 4: Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Robert W. Maloy & Torrey Trust (EdTech Books) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform.

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