Civics Standards

November 23, 1994 2 min read

Following are excerpts from the recommended voluntary standards for civics and government.

Grades K-4

What are the benefits of diversity in the United States?

Content summary and rationale

Diversity has contributed to the vitality and creativity of the United States by increasing the range of viewpoints, ideas, customs, and choices available to each individual in almost every aspect of life.

An understanding of the benefits of diversity to the individual and society, as well as some of its costs, may reduce irrational conflicts and unfair discrimination and provide a basis for the equitable handling of conflicts that do arise.

Sample content standard

Diversity in American society. Students should be able to describe diversity in the United States and identify its benefits.

To achieve this standard, students should be able to:

Explain the meaning of the word diversity.

Identify common forms of diversity in the United States, e.g., ethnic, racial, religious, class, linguistic, gender, national origin.

Explain why there is so much diversity in the United States.

Describe some benefits of diversity.

Describe some of the costs of diversity.

Grades 5-8

What values and principles are basic to American constitutional democracy?

Content summary and rationale

Agreement on certain fundamental values and principles is essential to the preservation and improvement of American constitutional democracy. ... The values and principles of American constitutional democracy have shaped the nation’s political institutions and practices. These values and principles are sometimes in conflict, however, and their very meaning and application are often disputed. For example, although most Americans agree that the idea of equality is an important value, they may disagree about what priority it should be given in comparison with other values, such as liberty. ... Disparities have always existed between the realities of daily life and the ideals of American constitutional democracy. ... Citizens need to be aware of historical and contemporary efforts of Americans who, through individual, social, and political action, have sought to lessen the disparity between ideals and reality. Citizens need to understand that American society is perpetually finished and that each generation has an obligation to help the nation move closer to the realization of its ideals.

Sample content standard

Conflicts among values and principles in American political and social life. Students should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues in which fundamental values and principles are in conflict.

To achieve this standard, students should be able to:

Describe conflicts among fundamental values and principles and give historical and contemporary examples of these conflicts: conflicts between individual rights and the common good, e.g., liberty to smoke in public places and protection of the health of other persons.

Explain why people may agree on values or principles in the abstract but disagree when they are applied to specific issues: agreement on the value of equality but disagreement about affirmative-action programs.

SOURCE: Center for Civic Education.

A version of this article appeared in the November 23, 1994 edition of Education Week as Civics Standards