Reimagining civics

Vinita Singh

This is such an opportune time for this issue. The year 2019 marks the 70th year of the Indian Constitution and our Republic! It could be a time to use many of the ideas here to create activities and events that help students connect deeply with the fundamental principles that join us all, in all our diversity and uniqueness!

Today, we have much to be proud about. But we face a number of challenges too. In meeting these challenges, we citizens have a big responsibility. This is because democracies are deepened through an informed, active and responsible citizenry. This is a singular condition.

This means that the development of responsible citizenship is a critical building block for us. As Alexis de Toqueville (political scientist and historian) pointed out, each new generation is a new people that must acquire the knowledge, learn the skills, and develop the dispositions or traits of private and public character that undergird a constitutional democracy. Those dispositions must be fostered and nurtured by word and study and by the power of example. Democracy is not a “machine that would go off itself,” but must be consciously reproduced, one generation after another.

How do we develop responsible citizenship? Studies of older democracies such as America have shown that these dispositions need to be nurtured early, in schools, through effective and imaginative civic education. And they need to be practiced and modeled by those from whom children learn first – their teachers and care givers. This then is the formidable nation building task of all social studies teachers. And this issue of Teachers Plus is an attempt to help you in that.

When Usha asked us to come in as Guest Editors on this special issue, we happily agreed. We, The People Abhiyan is an NGO dedicated to the cause of building an active and responsible citizenry. We work with teachers from government and private schools to build capacities to make civics classes the best they can be. So, for us, it is a great opportunity to engage with you all through this powerful medium.

I have to say, however, that this effort would have been impossible without the meticulous and painstaking efforts of the We, The People team who conceptualized the framework of the articles, drew up names of people who we knew would add value and then worked with each author to get their thoughts to you. Our Guest Editorial team was led by Bhakti Bhave and joined up by Sonal Iyer, Neha Yadav and me. We do hope you enjoy this issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

Thanks to the Teacher Plus team, thanks also to each author and more power to you dear teachers!