Democratic Citizenship

[General Education at St Cloud State University]

"The cure for the evils of democracy is more democracy." -- Al Smith

DEFINITION: Core 5 Democratic Citizenship is a course to explore the concepts, responsibilities, and experiences of citizenship in a democracy.

DESCRIPTION: Interdisciplinary social science knowledge and skills for citizenship in a democratic society and a just community. The course is critical, pluralistic, interdisciplinary, applied, and involves research and communications projects. Understanding a citizen's rights and responsibilities to others, to society, and to the environment; understanding ethical behavior in personal, professional, and public life; developing skills that support or enable responsible citizenship at the local, state, national, and global levels. 3 Credits.

PURPOSE: The reason for requiring a course in democratic citizenship is to help students develop an interest in political issues and a sense of social responsibility using critical thought. It is designed to deepen students' understanding of values and social issues from multicultural and interdisciplinary perspectives as well as to develop students' skills for active engagement in participatory democracy at various levels. This requirement teaches students that a primary reason for higher education and for general education is the development of the knowledge, values, and skills necessary for active citizenship in a democratic society. Democratic society requires that students not only be prepared for a career, but for their other roles and responsibilities in society as well. Citizenship is not an activity that an educated person performs as a sideline, but an ongoing daily activity that attempts to raise the quality and civility of society and that adds to the richness of a person's life.

RATIONALE: The requirement is based upon three goals in the St. Cloud State University mission and goals statement: "promote understanding of ethical behavior in personal, professional, and public life;" "enhance understanding of a citizen's responsibilities to others, to society, and to the environment;" "encourage involved citizenship at the local, state, national, and global level." Students often see their higher education as career preparation and their general education as "to be gotten out of the way," but citizenship is an especially important role of education. Democratic Citizenship is in the General Education Core because, like Rhetoric and Composition, Speech Communication, Quantitative Thinking, and Critical Reasoning, it contributes to the development of a universal skill used within other college courses to make those courses more beneficial and, most importantly, it will be applied throughout adult life by the educated person. It will help students to see the importance of their other general education and liberal education courses, and it will help them to benefit more from those courses.

Read Eleanor Roosevelt's essay

"Good Citizenship: The Purpose of Education"



  • Blackstone, David and Eduardo Mendieta, eds.: The Good Citizen (Routledge, 1999).

  • Eberly, Don E.: The Essential Civil Society Reader (Roman & Littlefield, 2000)

  • Greider, William: Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy (Simon & Schuster, 1992).

  • Korten, David: When Corporations Rule the World (Kumarian Press, 1995).

  • Lasch, Christopher: The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy (Norton, 1995).

  • Loeb, Paul Rogat: Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in a Cynical Time (St. Martin's, 1999).

  • McChesney, Robert: Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times (University of Illinois, 1999).


In all sections of Democratic Citizenship, students will demonstrate the knowledge, values and skills of citizenship in a democracy by covering the following five goals.

A. Students will understand and appreciate that an important and primary purpose of higher education and of general education is preparation for citizenship and for participation in a democratic society.

B. Students will identify the skills needed for responsible citizenship and demonstrate the ability to apply those skills to contribute to the common welfare of society.

C. Students will analyze the citizen's role in society and critically examine diverse values about people, society, and the environment.

D. Students will integrate knowledge from several disciplines and demonstrate understanding that citizenship and responsibility have multiple facets within a pluralistic society.

E. Students will evaluate ethical responsibilities in their personal, professional and public lives and relate these values to other people, to society, and to the biophysical environment.



The Committee on Democratic Citizenship will consist of one member elected from each of the departments that offer a course in Core 5, preferably a Core 5 instructor. This Committee will elect a Coordinator of Democratic Citizenship (similar to Director of Composition and Rhetoric, Director of Speech 192, etc.) from the faculty of the College of Social Sciences. The Coordinator will serve a three-year term, and not more than two consecutive terms, and will also serve as chair of the Committee on Democratic Citizenship. Scheduling, exemptions, assessment, seminars on teaching and pedagogy, collaboration, co-curricular activities (e.g. speakers, films, etc.) and other integrating functions, course development, and so on will be conducted by the Coordinator. The Dean's office in the College of Social Sciences will coordinate staffing. The Coordinator will be provided the same re-assignment time as Core 1 and Core 2 directors to conduct these duties.


During its first year, 2000-01, Core 5 Democratic Citizenship will be offered only by departments within the College of Social Sciences. In subsequent years, a limited number of departments from other colleges may be added to Core 5 if the course proposal meets the criteria for Core 5 and if the dean certifies that the department has sufficient resources.

In order for a department to offer Democratic Citizenship, its course must meet the approved Objectives and Criteria. Evaluations of Core 5 course proposals will be made by the Curriculum Committee of the College and by the University Curriculum Council, and must include appropriate sign-offs. The principal purpose of Core 5 is to educate students, not to accumulate FTEs nor to expand departments nor to exclude valid and useful approaches.

Students will be able to choose from a variety of disciplinary approaches offered by several departments. The primary advantage of multiple courses is that this will teach students that important concepts (e.g. democracy, citizenship) are not confined to single disciplines, but can be studied in a variety of ways. This should help correct the mistaken notion that problems can be categorized into compartments similar to the departmentalization of the university, and that is one of the primary goals of this requirement, i.e. the furtherance of interdisciplinarity, one of the five goals of general education at SCSU.

A multiple course format will best employ faculty members' creative abilities, which will be focused on a specialized discipline or sub-discipline. Core 5 will be like Core 1, which is a course on rhetoric and composition, but which is taught entirely differently by different faculty members using entirely different texts (such as science fiction, Homer, Black literature, T. R. Malthus, etc.), like Core 2, which uses different texts and formats in different sections to introduce students to Speech Communication, and like Core 3, which teaches quantitative thinking from a variety of perspectives.

Departments will number their Core 5 courses "195." (E.g. HIST 195, POL 195, etc.) The numbers 191-195 have been reserved for Core courses to facilitate recognition, student registration, graduation audits, and so on. Like other Core requirements, Core 5 courses cannot be double-counted elsewhere in the General Education Program (i.e. distribution), nor can they be counted for Diversity [MGM]. Students may not use a "195" course for a distribution requirement, and "195" courses will not be listed in distribution areas. Core 5 courses may be seen as preparation for the Diversity [MGM] courses that take students deeper into critical social problems. Departments may require (or double-count) specific Core 5 courses in their programs at their discretion.


The recommended pedagogy would be that appropriate for small class sizes, about 25-30 students, consistent with Core 1, 2, and 3. This will provide opportunities for student writing, small-group and class discussion, problem solving, and critical reasoning, thus integrating and advancing skills learned in the other Core areas. Moderate class sizes will also encourage faculty to unite sections of different Core courses, e.g. joining a writing section with a section in democratic citizenship. To begin, class sizes will vary from 25 to 70 students with the intention to reduce all class sizes to less than 30 students. No large "auditorium" sections nor "combined" sections will be approved for Core 5.

It is important that each course contain writing and student discussion, and that each course be identified as a "democratic citizenship" course within the syllabus, reminding the students that the course is about citizenship and that education and general education are in part about an educated person's roles in democratic society.


Like other Core courses, all sections of Core 5 must have a commonality for coherence of General Education. That commonality is accomplished by the introduction of the students into the importance of citizenship as an integral part of their university education and their adult lives and (1) into an understanding of a citizen's rights and responsibilities to others, to society, and to the environment, (2) into an understanding of ethical behavior in personal, professional, and public life, and (3) into the knowledge and skills that support or enable responsible citizenship at the local, state, national, and global levels. This degree of commonality is consistent with the commonality in other Core areas, such as Core 1, which requires the commonality of instructing students into the use and importance of rhetoric and composition, and Core 2, which requires the commonality of public speaking, interpersonal communication, and small group interaction, and so on.

This commonality description allows multiple approaches to the course. A course might take an entirely historical perspective, or might view citizenship from the perspective of public policy and government decision making. A course might focus on a specific problem, such as poverty, racism, gender or sexual discrimination, community, or the environment, and examine various solutions. Another valid approach would be to explore the intersection of a specific discipline with public policy issues. What is important is the focus on citizenship within a democracy and the education of students with the knowledge, skill, and values to be responsible citizens while in college and in their adult lives.


The Committee on Democratic Citizenship and the Coordinator of Democratic Citizenship, in cooperation with the university's Director of Assessment, will be responsible for ongoing assessment of Core 5 and for making assessment reports to the General Education Committee. Departments may assess their Core 5 offerings in their own ways in consultation with those responsible for assessment. Both Core 5 as a whole and the various components of Core 5 will be assessed, and Core 5 will participate in assessments of the Core and of the General Education Program.

There are many assessment instruments available. One example of an assessment measure for Core 5 might be an examination that includes questions from all the disciplines involved in the Core 5 requirement. The examination could be administered at the beginning of the semester and at the end of the semester to assess improvement in student knowledge, awareness, and critical abilities. However, this is merely an example, and many other assessment measures can be employed.


The Committee on Democratic Citizenship and the Coordinator of Democratic Citizenship will be responsible for implementing an exemption procedure. One possibility is a multiple-essay examination, based upon the criteria for Core 5 courses. Another possibility is an examination that includes questions from all the disciplines involved in the Core 5 requirement, with a minimum score. In addition, those students seeking exemption should submit to the Coordinator of Democratic Citizenship a portfolio of work in democratic citizenship which might include letters of recommendation, course work completed, and past experience. The Coordinator will be responsible for administering the examination to students seeking exemptions and for final determination of which students are exempt. The purpose of the university is not to certify credit but to educate, and thus few will be exempted.


There will be no social service requirement except at the discretion of the individual instructor or department. For some departments, social service may not be feasible, while in others it might be an integral and important part of the course. Students should have options to enroll in a course with or without a social service requirement. If there is a social service requirement, this should be designated in the University Bulletin and/or in the Semester Schedule.

Recommended Means for Achieving the Goals and Purposes of Core 5

1. Understanding of a citizen's responsibilities to others, to society and to the environment.

Students will:

1.1 Examine the meaning of democracy and citizenship from different points of view including non-dominant, non-western perspectives.

1.2 Explore the various rights and obligations that citizens may be said to have in their communities, nations and in global society.

1.3 Understand and reflect upon their own lives, careers, and interests in relation to participatory democracy and the general welfare of the global society.

1.4 Explore the relationship of global citizenship and responsibility to the environment.

2. Understanding of ethical behavior in personal, professional and public life.

Students will:

2.1 Be familiar with fundamental national and international laws, documents and legal issues pertaining to citizenship, democracy and human rights.

2.2 Identify the civic and ethical responsibilities of people in specific fields/careers.

2.3 Be able to evaluate the policies of institutions, communities, states or nations in the context of their stated philosophical and cultural values.

2.4 Analyze the impact of social policies and institutions on citizenship, democracy, respect for diversity, human rights and the environmental impact.

2.5 Examine the ethical implications of personal and professional decisions and actions in relation to society and the environment.

3. Knowledge and skills for involved responsible citizenship at the local, state, national and global level.

Students will:

3.1 Have knowledge of an increasingly pluralistic society and world where the requirements of citizenship are open to important debates among citizens of different nationalities, races, colors, creeds, genders, religions, abilities and disabilities, and sexual orientations.

3.2 Be able to locate information from a variety of sources, identify underlying values and investigate the veracity of information.

3.3 Be able to identify and investigate problems, examine underlying assumptions, synthesize information, formulate solutions, identify constituencies, compose arguments and identify appropriate forums for taking actions.

3.4 Learn various forms of citizenship skills such as self-empowerment/ assertiveness, media analysis, letter writing, evaluation of candidates, lobbying, organizing, etc.

3.5 Be encouraged to demonstrate skill development in participatory democracy by the completion of a community service, citizen participation or social action project.

Approved by the General Education Committee, September 22, 1999

Approved by the Faculty Senate, October 12, 1999

Approved by the Office of Academic Affairs, December 6, 1999

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