Monday, October 1, 2012

The American Citizens Handbook: Part 2

As we examined in Part 1 of the The American Citizens Handbook we saw the purpose behind writing the handbook as a means to learn how to "pass on the torch of democracy and to make the nation better and stronger." In Part 2, we will begin to look at how the publishers of this handbook, National Council for the Social Studies, want teachers to commute to students on how to be a good citizen and can make this "nation better and stronger."

Good citizenry requires a set of established values that an individual follows in their everyday life. When asked what makes a good citizen the National Council of Social Studies sought the advice of the top leaders in the United States and asked them this very same question. From that survey they developed a 24-point list of what it takes to be a good citizen. Although the pronoun "his" is exclusively used it is referring to both genders and we remind ourselves this was written in a time when the man was seen as the primary engine for change within the country. 
  1. Believes in equality of opportunity for all people.
  2. Values, respects, and defends basic human rights and privileges guaranteed by the US Constitution.
  3. Respects and upholds the law and its agencies. 
  4. Understands and accepts the following democratic principles as guides in evaluating his own behavior and the policies and practices of other persons and groups, and judges his own behavior and the behavior of others by them: a) each individual possesses dignity and worth as a person. b) that governments exist by the consent of the governed. c) civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution. d) that government is by law, not by men. e) in a large diverse nation compromise is frequently necessary. f) people are intelligent enough to govern themselves
  5. Understands that, in the long run, people will govern themselves better than any self-appointed group would govern them.
  6. Puts the general welfare above his own whenever a choice between them is necessary.
  7. Feels that he has inherited an unfinished experiment in self-government which it is his duty and privilege to carry on. 
  8. Exercises his right to vote.
  9. Accepts civic responsibilities and discharges them to the best of his ability.
  10. Knows technics of social action and can cooperate with others in achieving such action. 
  11. Accepts the basic idea that in a democracy the majority has the right to make decisions under the Constitution. 
  12. Assumes a personal responsibility to contribute toward a well-informed climate of opinion on current social, economic, and political problems or issues. 
  13. Realizes the necessary connection of education with democracy.
  14. Respects property rights, meets his obligations in contracts, and obeys regulations governing the use of property.
  15. Supports fair business practices and fair relations between employers and employees.
  16. Assumes a personal responsibility for the wise use of natural resources. 
  17. Accepts responsibility for the maintenance and improvement of a competitive economic system assisted and regulated when necessary by governmental action. 
  18. Knows in general how other economic systems operate, including their political and social consequences. 
  19. Knows about, critically evaluates, and supports promising efforts to prevent war, but stands ready to defend his country against tyranny and aggression. 
  20. Is deeply aware of the independence of people and realizes that a good life can be attained only by the organized cooperation of millions of people all over the world. 
  21. Understands cultures and ways of life other than his own.
  22. Cultivates qualities of character and personality that have a high value in his culture. 
  23. Is a responsible family member and assumes his full responsibility for maintaining the civic standards of his neighborhood and community. 
  24. Recognizes taxes as payment for community services and pays them promptly.
This can be a pretty overwhelming list for today's American but in the 1940s and 1950s this would be a fairly common place idea. These virtues of what make a great American citizen can probably be seen as old-fashioned today. So the question would be why would many Americans see it that way? I believe it has to do with our view of truth. In our modern society we see truth as gray. Truth can be determined by the individual and their perspective which is gained through experience and background. The American of the 21st century will define the values of being a good citizen in their own individual way and we as a society are to honor that perspective. From the mid-20th century all the way back to early America society viewed values as very black and white. That's more than likely why the NEA (National Education Association) rejected this book by the 1970s as something they were wanting to produce. With the books focus on an old-fashioned narrow minded view of patriotism and Christian faith as a foundation for a good democracy (which we'll examine in Part 5), it is not surprise that this book was rejected by the progressive NEA that we see today. I wanted to examine this book because it is important to see how and what are students were being taught. It seems like a drastic change from what we teach our children today but the basic ideas of equality to all people, loyalty to America, and a basic knowledge of our history and current political system would be something that every student should aspire to learn. I would love to get peoples' reactions to these 24-points of being a good citizen. Tell me what you think?

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: A List of Values
Part 3: The Hall of Fame of Great Americans
Part 4: Documents
Part 5: Conclusion

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