July 4th was my father's favorite holiday. This day was always a reminder about one of his greatest accomplishments--becoming a US citizen. He was extremely proud to be an American and the rights, privileges, and opportunities afforded him and his family as naturalized citizens. He was a true believer in democracy, and in his mind, citizenship was the pathway.
As a young person, I didn't fully understand my father's appreciation for democracy nor his lessons on our responsibilities as citizens. I never understood why he always pushed my sisters and I to join student government, why he constantly reminded us about the importance of voting, or why he wanted us to give our time and money back to the community. Although I didn't know it back then, I recognize now that he was planting the seed that would help me become an active citizen and a true believer in our democratic system.
I hope every young person has the opportunity to learn some of the civic lessons I received from my father. Whether these lessons are learned at home or at school (a combination of both would be ideal), it is imperative that we continue to promote civic learning and participation amongst our young people. How will students learn the fundamental values of American democracy, the importance of contributing to their communities, or the significance of the political and electoral process if we don't provide them with these civic lessons?
We must ensure that civic learning is a significant part of every young person's education. This is why it is important to support the many organizations that are doing great work that enable today's students to become tomorrow's active citizens. Below are just some of the many organizations promoting civic learning and working to enact changes in policy to advance civic education in our schools and communities:
The Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools
Constitutional Rights Foundation:
Center for Democracy and Citizenship:
National Center for Learning and Citizenship
So while you enjoy your hotdog and fireworks this 4th of July, be sure to also take some time to reflect on how you too can contribute to teaching our young people the importance of civic education.
--Seung Yu - SEANet / National Service-Learning Partnership