What is this thing called Civics?

And then there were two…candidates for the presidency, that is. The 90-day race is on. Our lives will be filled with opportunities for discussion of the issues. There will be debates, TV commercials, town hall meetings, news articles, and tweets. These are all fodder for dinner table discussions, water cooler gossip, and schoolyard shouting matches. But there is also the opportunity for so much more. There is an opportunity to teach and learn about all things civics.

What Exactly is Civics?

So what is civics, anyway? The Merriam-Webster definition is a good one, I think: “The study of the rights and duties of citizens and of how the government works.”

One thing I love about it is it challenges us to understand a lot more than just the election and role of the President. It relates to understanding and having a say about senators and judges, representatives on both the federal and local levels. It also calls upon us to understand the numerous issues that our government tackles for us.

The other thing I love about this definition is that it is about our responsibilities as well as our entitlements. “Rights” and “Duties” operate hand in hand.

Our Civic Rights and Duties

So what are these rights and duties? There are many specifics, of course. But I would say at least these two things: (1) the right and duty to vote and (2) the right and duty to get the facts that prepare you to make an “informed” vote.

That’s where the debate parties and the dinner table conversations come in. But a lot of this may go over kids’ heads. Or may not be in a format that appeals to them.

Civics for Kids

Enter iCivics – a GREAT website for kids (quite frankly, I am enjoying it as an adult!) It’s loaded with games that give kids the chance to think about and role play how governing is done. Argue one side of a case (you choose which side) about matters related to the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Take a turn running each of the three branches of government. Strategize how to use your country’s resources in the international community – will your people be better protected through war or peace? And so much more.

Share your thoughts on teaching civics.

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