U. S. Government/Citizenship

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Citizenship1 is a member of a political community (or the statue of being a citizen of a community/state/country)

Our Rights as Citizens[edit | edit source]

Protests in Madrid, Spain

The Declaration of Independence states that citizens have certain unalienable2---rights can not be taken away. The rights of Americans are spelled out in the Bill of Rights3 (the first ten amendments to the Constitution), and in later amendments. The First Amendment is very important. It lists civil liberties guaranteed to all citizens. These civil liberties include the freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, press, and petition. Other amendments contained in the Bill of Rights guarantee such rights as freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, and the rights to counsel and trial by jury.

All civil liberties have limits. People have the right to assemble4, but they cannot obstruct traffic or cause a disturbance. They are allowed to speak and write freely, but they can be held responsible for false statements or statements that might threaten the reputation or thee safety of others. People can worship as they please, but their religious practices must not violate any law. In short, Americans are free to do as they choose as long as they do not break a law or infringe upon the rights of others.

The freedoms described above are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. A number of laws and amendments guaranteeing other freedoms were passed after the Bill of Rights came into effect. The Fourteenth Amendment5 granted citizenship to African Americans, the Fifteenth Amendment6 gave them the right to vote, although the right was not fully granted until the Voting Rights Act of 19657. In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment8 granted women the right to vote.

The right to bear arms, a right guaranteed by the Second Amendment9, has been the subject of much controversy for many years. Some citizens think this right only applied to state militias in the early days of our country. Others interpret thee amendment as a license to own any kind of weapon they choose. Each citizen has his or her own interpretation of the right guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

  • The Constitution of the United States of America establishes and protects the citizen's fundamental rights and liberties.
  • The Bill of Rights guaranteed individuals many rights; however few rights are considered absolute (without limit)

Important Amendments[edit | edit source]

  • 1st Amendment- guaranteees the following rights (Religion, Assembly, Press, Petition, Speech; RAPPS)
    • Religion = Government may not establish and official religion, nor endorse, or unduly interfere with the free exercise of religion.
    • Assembly = Individuals may peacefully gather.
    • Press = The press has the right to gather and publish information, including that which criticizes the government.
    • Petition = Individuals have the right to contact and make their views known to public officials.
    • Speech = Individuals are free to express their opinions and beliefs
  • 14th Amendment- extends the due process protection to actions of the states.

Vocabulary[edit | edit source]

  • Due process - The constitutional protection against unfair governmental actions and laws
  • Bill of Rights - First 10 Amendments to the Constitution which protects fundamental freedoms of the States and individuals from the national government.

Character Traits of Good Citizens[edit | edit source]

Thoughtful and effective participation in civic life depends upon the exercise of good citizenship.

  1. Trustworthiness and honesty
  2. Courtesy and respect for the rights of others
  3. Responsibility, accountability, and self-reliance
  4. Respect for the law
  5. Patriotism
  6. Participation in the school or local community
  7. Participation in elections an informed voter
Effective participation in civic life can include
  1. Formulating questions
  2. Analyzing information from a variety of sources
  3. Expressing a position
  4. Devising and implementing a plan
  5. Practicing thoughtful decision making in personal, financial, and civic matters (e.g., voting, civic issues)

Character Education/Community Service[edit | edit source]

A democratic society10 requires the active participation of its citizens.

Ways for citizens to participate in community service[edit | edit source]

  • Volunteer to support democratic institutions (such as the League of Women Voters- an organization that encourages the informed and active participation of women in government.
  • Express concern about the welfare of the community as a hole (environment, public health and safety, education).
  • Help to make the community a good place to work and live (by becoming involved with public service organizations, tutoring, volunteering in nursing homes).

Rights and Responsibilities[edit | edit source]

You have probably heard the expression "Get a life!". An important part of your life, both now and in the future, is your civic life. What is your civic life? Civics refer to the political rights and responsibilities of citizenship. The word civics comes from the Latin word civis, which means citizen. Political rights are powers or privileges to which all citizens are due or entitled. Political responsibilities refer to obligations and actions regarding the exercise of political rights for the betterment of society. An important political right is the right to vote, a political responsibility directly associated with this right is deciding whether and how to vote. Which statements below are rights, and which ones are responsibilities?


To a fair trial in a court of law is a Right
To respect the rights of others is a Responsibility

  • To a free press is a Right
  • To vote is a Right
  • To speak freely is a Right
  • To assembly is a Right
  • To criticize the government is a Right
  • To travel between states is a Right
  • To exercise the right to vote is a Right
  • To take an active part in civic affairs is a Right
  • To obey the laws is a Responsibility
  • To serve on juries is a Responsibility
  • To serve in the armed forces is a Right
  • To be protected from hate speech is a Right
  • To write a letter to the editor is a Right
  • To pay taxes is a Responsibility
  • To petition the government is a Right