Civic Virtue and Civic Education

POLS 333-01, All-online (asynchronous)

What does it mean to be a citizen?

All political societies educate their members about what it means to be a citizen or subject. But citizenship in a constitutional republic or a democracy requires supports that other forms of political order do not - if the citizens wish to retain any meaningful control over the polity, they must know a great deal more than a mere subject and practice certain political virtues. Yet various controversies remain at the heart of how to educate citizens for this task, and many doubt it is even possible today. By focusing on the American political tradition and the ideas that helped shape it, this class addresses these difficult issues.
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We will discuss questions such as:

  • Must citizens be moral? Or do they only need to share a common set of laws that bind them?
  • What must citizens know about their nation's history?
  • Can civic education shape politics in any meaningful way?
  • Is civic virtue different from the ordinary values people carry with them in their lives?

This class counts for the Political Science major and minor.

While it officially requires POLS 300 as a prerequisite, students who have taken POLS 307 will also be granted permission to take the course (if you need one, email Prof. Smith for a permit at