CoverIntroductionTable of Contents with Critical Media Literacy ConnectionsUpdates & Latest AdditionsLearning Pathway: Racial Justice and Black Lives MatterLearning Pathway: Influential WomenLearning Pathway: Student RightsLearning Pathway: Elections 2024, 2022, & 2020Learning Pathway: Current Events Learning Pathway: Critical Media LiteracyTeacher-Designed Learning PlansTopic 1. The Philosophical Foundations of the United States Political System1.1. The Government of Ancient Athens1.2. The Government of the Roman Republic1.3. Enlightenment Thinkers and Democratic Government1.4. British Influences on American Government1.5. Native American Influences on U.S. GovernmentTopic 2. The Development of the United States Government2.1. The Revolutionary Era and the Declaration of Independence2.2. The Articles of Confederation2.3. The Constitutional Convention2.4. Debates between Federalists and Anti-Federalists2.5. Articles of the Constitution and the Bill of RightsTopic 3. Institutions of United States Government3.1. Branches of the Government and the Separation of Powers3.2. Checks and Balances Between the Branches of Government3.3. The Roles of the Congress, the President, and the Courts3.4. Elections and Nominations3.5. The Role of Political PartiesTopic 4. The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens4.1. Becoming a Citizen4.2. Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens and Non-Citizens4.3. Civic, Political, and Private Life4.4. Fundamental Principles and Values of American Political and Civic Life4.5. Voting and Citizen Participation in the Political Process4.6. Election Information4.7. Leadership and the Qualities of Political Leaders4.8. Cooperation Between Individuals and Elected Leaders4.9. Public Service as a Career4.10. Liberty in Conflict with Equality or Authority4.11. Political Courage and Those Who Affirmed or Denied Democratic Ideals4.12. The Role of Political Protest4.13. Public and Private Interest Groups, PACs, and Labor UnionsTopic 5. The Constitution, Amendments, and Supreme Court Decisions5.1. The Necessary and Proper Clause5.2. Amendments to the Constitution5.3. Constitutional Issues Related to the Civil War, Federal Power, and Individual Civil Rights5.4. Civil Rights and Equal Protection for Race, Gender, and Disability5.5. Marbury v. Madison and the Principle of Judicial Review5.6. Significant Supreme Court DecisionsTopic 6. The Structure of Massachusetts State and Local Government6.1. Functions of State and National Government6.2. United States and Massachusetts Constitutions6.3. Enumerated and Implied Powers6.4. Core Documents: The Protection of Individual Rights6.5. 10th Amendment to the Constitution6.6. Additional Provisions of the Massachusetts Constitution6.7. Responsibilities of Federal, State and Local Government6.8. Leadership Structure of the Massachusetts Government6.9. Tax-Supported Facilities and Services6.10. Components of Local GovernmentTopic 7. Freedom of the Press and News/Media Literacy7.1. Freedom of the Press7.2. Competing Information in a Free Press7.3. Writing the News: Different Formats and Their Functions7.4. Digital News and Social Media7.5. Evaluating Print and Online Media7.6. Analyzing Editorials, Editorial Cartoons, or Op-Ed CommentariesGlossaryIndex of Terms
Topic 4

The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens

World Citizen Badge
"World Citizen Badge" by DasRaskel is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Snapshot of Topic 4

Supporting Question

What is the role of the individual in maintaining a healthy democracy?

Standards [8.T1.1-13]

  1. Becoming a Citizen
  2. Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens and Non-Citizens
  3. Civic, Political and Private Life
  4. Fundamental Principles and Values of American Political and Civic Life
  5. Voting and Citizen Participation
  6. Election Information
  7. Leadership and the Qualities of Good Leaders
  8. Cooperation between Individuals and Leaders
  9. Public Service as a Career
  10. Liberty in Conflict with Equality or Authority
  11. Political Courage and Those Who Affirmed or Denied Democratic Ideals
  12. The Role of Political Protest
  13. Public and Private Interest Groups

Topic 4: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens

“A citizen is a participatory member of a political community. Citizenship is gained by meeting the legal requirements of a national, state, or local government” (quoted from Center for the Study of Citizenship, Wayne State University, 2021).

In the United States, both citizens and non-citizens have rights and responsibilities in their civic, political, and private lives; that is, they enjoy the freedoms of a democratic society while having responsibilities they are expected to perform including obeying laws, voting in elections, working with elected leaders, engaging in peaceful protest, and affirming the fundamental principles of American political and civic life.

U.S. history has numerous examples of individuals who showed political courage and leadership in support of democratic values and freedoms, but it also includes multiple times when individuals and groups failed to live up to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (see Topic 4.11 in this book). In modern society, public and private interest groups, political action committees, and labor unions more than individual citizens play powerful roles in lobbying for social and economic change.

In the video below, Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Neil Gorsuch discuss the importance of citizenship and voting (Note: The YouTube version of the video does not provide closed captions. For the original video with closed captions, go to the CBS News page). 

Image preview of a YouTube video
Watch on YouTube

Topic 4 explores the rights and responsibilities of citizens in our democracy. It consists of 13 modules ranging from how to become a citizen to the different ways that each of us can actively participate in political and civic life through voting, public service, political protest, and membership in public and private interest groups.