Creating Effective Citizens

A Position Statement of National Council for the Social Studies



National Council for the Social Studies believes that a primary goal of public education is to prepare students to be engaged and effective citizens. NCSS has defined an effective citizen as one who has the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required to assume the “office of citizen” in our democratic republic.

To accomplish this goal, every student must participate in citizenship education activities each year. These activities should expand civic knowledge, develop participation skills, and support the belief that, in a democracy, the actions of each person make a difference. Throughout the curriculum and at every grade level, students should have opportunities to apply their civic knowledge, skills, and values as they work to solve real problems in their school, the community, our nation, and the world. These opportunities should be part of a well-planned and organized citizenship education program.

Citizenship education is as important today as at any other time in our history. Citizens in the twenty-first century must be prepared to deal with rapid change, complex local, national, and global issues, cultural and religious conflicts, and the increasing interdependence of nations in a global economy. For our democracy to survive in this challenging environment, we must educate our students to understand, respect, and uphold the values enshrined in our founding documents. Our students should leave school with a clear sense of their rights and responsibilities as citizens. They should also be prepared to challenge injustice and to promote the common good.

National Council for the Social Studies is committed to revitalizing citizenship education in our schools and to empowering all students with a positive vision of their role as citizens in a democracy.

Characteristics of an Effective Citizen

NCSS believes that the core mission of social studies education is to help students develop the knowledge, skills, and values that will enable them to become effective citizens.


An effective citizen:

Characteristics of an Effective Citizenship Education Program

NCSS further believes that preparation for democratic citizenship should be part of the education of every student at every level.


An effective citizenship education program ensures that: