In its broadest sense, civics (also known as “civic education” or “civic learning”) is the lifelong process that makes people into active, responsible, and knowledgeable members of their communities—which range from their schools and towns or neighborhoods to the whole nation and even the world. Civic learning occurs in families, in religious congregations and other associations, in political campaigns, and on news websites, among many other venues.
As defined in many state standards and other official documents, “civics” usually refers to a K-12 curriculum that is part of the social studies. This curriculum typically draws heavily on political science and law and has close connections to other academic subjects, particularly American history, and to experiences like service-learning. In a given grade or school, these disciplines may be integrated in various ways; for instance, one course or sequence of courses may combine civics (as the study of politics) with U.S. history.
In the CivXNow Coalition, we endorse the broad definition of “civics” and are concerned about all influences on the civic development of children, youth, and even adults. However, we focus particular attention on K-12 in and out-of-school programs, and within the broad school experience, on the teaching of politics, law, American history, and closely related subjects and disciplines, opportunities for students to put learning in practice such as service learning, clubs and other programs, opportunities for students to participate in school governance along with the development of whole school cultures that cultivate civic skills and values.