The Prevailing Construct in Civic Education and Its Problems

Summer 2010

Source: Action in Teacher Education, Vol. 32, No. 2. p. 24-41. (Summer, 2010)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The current article presents a construct that has served as the perspective by which civic education and government courses have been taught in American secondary schools.

The author explains the construct of natural rights.
The author's purpose here is pointing out the elements of the natural rights construct and critiquing its effects on the teaching of civics and government.
Then, the author outlines the moral element and theoretical and curricular elements of the natural rights construct .

The author presents the moral element as the liberal argument for individual rights of free choice enjoying liberty from all forms of subjugation.
The theoretical element consisted of a description of the political systems approach to the study of politics . This approach, based on the natural rights assumptions of personal interests and motivation, identifies the structural, functional, and procedural elements of modern polities.

In terms of curricular application, this article describes the natural rights construct as emphasizing instruction that conveys the structural elements of the central government of the United States and the functions of those structures.
The resulting instruction also conveys a strong defense of individual liberties and a practical neutral view of government, basically instituted to provide protection of individual rights and services to meet the otherwise unattainable demands of citizens.

Finally, the author provides a critique of the natural rights perspective. The critique emphasizes the perspective's excessive promotion of individualism and the detrimental effects that such an emphasis has caused in the teaching of government and civics.
Despite the overall usefulness of the natural rights construct, the perspective is judged to have serious and even counterproductive elements.

The author judges the prospect of moving on from the natural rights era to a more communal construct to be slight but essential for a more successful curriculum in civic education.

The author claims that civic educators could make a concerted effort to lead the way, not to the communal ideals of the past, but to a newer sense in which a realistic adoption of federation principles can be developed and promoted.

Updated: Jun. 20, 2012