Active citizenship
Active citizenship refers to a philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 espoused by organizations and educational institutions which advocates that members of companies or nation-state
The nation state is a state that self-identifies as deriving its political legitimacy from serving as a sovereign entity for a nation as a sovereign territorial unit. The state is a political and geopolitical entity; the nation is a cultural and/or ethnic entity...

s have certain roles and responsibilities to society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

 and the environment
Natural environment
The natural environment encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof. It is an environment that encompasses the interaction of all living species....

, although those members may not have specific governing roles.

Active citizenship can be seen as an articulation of the debate over rights
Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory...

 versus responsibilities
Moral responsibility
Moral responsibility usually refers to the idea that a person has moral obligations in certain situations. Disobeying moral obligations, then, becomes grounds for justified punishment. Deciding what justifies punishment, if anything, is a principle concern of ethics.People who have moral...

. If a body gives rights to the people under its remit, then those same people might have certain responsibilities to uphold. This would be most obvious at a country
A country is a region legally identified as a distinct entity in political geography. A country may be an independent sovereign state or one that is occupied by another state, as a non-sovereign or formerly sovereign political division, or a geographic region associated with a previously...

 or nation-state
The nation state is a state that self-identifies as deriving its political legitimacy from serving as a sovereign entity for a nation as a sovereign territorial unit. The state is a political and geopolitical entity; the nation is a cultural and/or ethnic entity...

 level, but could also be wider, such as global citizenship
Global citizenship
Global citizenship applies the whole world to bring world peace and the concept of citizenship to a global level and is strongly connected with the concepts of globalization and cosmopolitanism. World citizenship is a term which can be distinguished from global citizenship, although some may merge...

. The implication is that an active citizen is one who fulfills both their rights and responsibilities in a balanced way. A problem with this concept is that although rights are often written down as part of law, responsibilities are not as well defined, and there may be disagreements amongst the citizens as to what the responsibilities are. For example, in the United Kingdom, citizens have the right to free health care, but voting
Voting is a method for a group such as a meeting or an electorate to make a decision or express an opinion—often following discussions, debates, or election campaigns. It is often found in democracies and republics.- Reasons for voting :...

 in elections is not compulsory, even though many people would define this as a responsibility.

Writing a clear definition of responsibilities for an active citizen is much more problematic than writing a list of rights
Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory...

. For example, although voting might be considered a basic responsibility by many people, there are some who through disability
A disability may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental or some combination of these.Many people would rather be referred to as a person with a disability instead of handicapped...

 or other issues are not able to participate
Participation (decision making)
Participation in social science refers to different mechanisms for the public to express opinions - and ideally exert influence - regarding political, economic, management or other social decisions. Participatory decision making can take place along any realm of human social activity, including...

 fully in the voting process.

An active citizen is someone who takes a role in the community. The term has been identified with volunteering by writers such as Jonathan Tich, who wrote in the Huffington Post in 2010 advocating that busy Americans should try to help others, particularly by offering high-level professional expertise in such areas as banking, education
Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts...

, engineering
Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize improvements to the lives of...

, and technology
Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures. The word technology comes ;...

 to help the less fortunate.

Active citizenship can be considered a buzzword
A buzzword is a term of art, salesmanship, politics, or technical jargon that is used in the media and wider society outside of its originally narrow technical context....

 by some, due to its ambiguous definition. Some examples are things like volunteering, donating, recycling and education until 16.

Examples of active citizenship in education

Due to concerns over such things as a lack of interest in elections (reflected by low voter turnout), the British Government launched a citizenship education
Citizenship education
There are two very different kinds of citizenship education,The first is education intended to prepare noncitizens to become legally and socially accepted as citizens...

 programme several years ago. Citizenship education is now compulsory in UK schools up to age 14, and is often available as an option beyond that age.

In Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, UK, active citizenship has been one of the three major themes of community
The term community has two distinct meanings:*a group of interacting people, possibly living in close proximity, and often refers to a group that shares some common values, and is attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household...

A policy is typically described as a principle or rule to guide decisions and achieve rational outcome. The term is not normally used to denote what is actually done, this is normally referred to as either procedure or protocol...

 since The Osler Report (section 6.6) in 1998. The most recent Scottish Executive
Scottish Executive
The Scottish Government is the executive arm of the devolved government of Scotland. It was established in 1999 as the Scottish Executive, from the extant Scottish Office, and the term Scottish Executive remains its legal name under the Scotland Act 1998...

 guidelines for Community learning and development, Working and Learning Together, has active citizenship as a target within other policy aims. Britain has a points-based immigration
Immigration is the act of foreigners passing or coming into a country for the purpose of permanent residence...

 system, and in 2009 was considering a probationary period for newly admitted immigrants which would examine, in part, how well they were being so-called active citizens.

In Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, there is an Active Citizenship Course being run at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario. It is a compulsory course that is delivered by the Language Studies Department to all students at the college.
Organizations that cite active citizenship as part of their mission or vision statement include:
  • Omidyar Network
    Omidyar Network
    Omidyar Network is a philanthrocapitalist investment firm established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam. To date, Omidyar Network has committed more than $290 million to for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations that foster economic advancement and encourage individual...

  • Active Citizenship Network
  • Minnesota Active Citizenship Initiative (MACI)
  • Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service
    Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service
    The Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, is a college of Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts...

  • Active Citizenship Office (Department of the Taoiseach
    Department of the Taoiseach
    The Department of the Taoiseach is the government department of the Taoiseach of Ireland. It is based in Government Buildings, the headquarters of the Government of Ireland, on Merrion Street in Dublin....

    , Ireland
    Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

  • Time for Citizenship
    Time for citizenship
    Time for Citizenship is a free website, initiated in 1999 by Primary schools in the UK and Ireland. Since then, the site has expanded somewhat and now has a membership of over 4,000 schools...

    , a primary school project
  • Stichting Actief Burgerschap University of Amsterdam
  • Alternative Spring Break
  • Junior Chamber International
    Junior Chamber International
    Junior Chamber International is the only worldwide non-political and non-sectarian youth service organization. It is an international community of citizens between the ages of to with the aim and purpose of creating positive changes in the world...

In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, writer Catherine Crier wondered in the Huffington Post about whether Americans had lost sight of Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

's sense of active citizenship. Crier lamented how Americans have tended to neglect participating in voluntary associations, and tend to live as "strangers apart from the rest", quoting Tocqueville
Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville was a French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution . In both of these works, he explored the effects of the rising equality of social conditions on the individual and the state in...

. In contrast, writer Eboo Patel in Newsweek
Newsweek is an American weekly news magazine published in New York City. It is distributed throughout the United States and internationally. It is the second-largest news weekly magazine in the U.S., having trailed Time in circulation and advertising revenue for most of its existence...

suggested that president Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

had a somewhat different sense of active citizenship, meaning strong families, a vibrant civic center in which persons of different faiths and secular backgrounds work together, with government acting as a "catalyst."

External links

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