What is a Citizen?
The Importance of Civics
Dear Classical Wisdom Kids,
Today in the United States is the ‘off year’ election. It is when Americans head to the polls to vote on all sorts of important - though not always headline grabbing - positions in the US government. It’s stuff like the House of Representatives, Attorney General, State Treasurers and various referendums.
And while the topic of civics and citizenships regularly crops up in anticipation of the big act, the presidential elections, the individual actually has a much greater influence on these smaller, more local votes.
So today, I thought it would be good to start a discussion with kids (and adults) of all ages on what is a citizen... and what does that entail?
But first, let us begin with our historic roots... as well as with the word itself.
Join our Classical Wisdom Kids Club! We’ll discuss the importance of Civics, History, Philosophy and more in our upcoming events…
What is a citizen?
The idea of citizenship came from the city-states of ancient Greece where the jobs of the citizens were very much part of everyday life.
It was thought that to be really a human, one had to be an active citizen in the community.
As Aristotle once said: “To take no part in the running of the community’s affairs is to be either a beast or a god!”
But being a citizen was not just being part and parcel of society, it was also an opportunity to prove one’s value. It was a chance to be virtuous, to gain honor and respect.
This idea of citizenship started in the Archaic period of Greek history and continued all the way into Roman times.
The Latin word was civitas, meaning “citizenhood,” and it was expanded from small communities to the entirety of the empire. The Romans realized that giving citizenship to people from all over the empire helped prove Roman rule over conquered areas.
But perhaps ancient Greece and Rome are more the exception than the rule… because for the majority of human history, the stories are of peasants, subjects, and tribes. Indeed, the idea of the “citizen” is historically rare… but it was among America’s most valued ideals for over two centuries.
In America, just as in Greece and Rome, the idea of being a citizen was more than just “rights,” it was a virtuous act and way to bring people together into a multicultural melting pot.
But is this still the case? What do you think it means to be a citizen? What roles should citizens play? Do you think it is a way to prove oneself? Or are there other better ways?
Let me know your thoughts, and what the kids (and adults) felt on the topic.
All the best,
Founder and Director
Classical Wisdom and Classical Wisdom Kids