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No Reluctant Citizens: Teaching Civics in K-12 Classrooms

reviewed by Paul J. Yoder - July 03, 2019

coverTitle: No Reluctant Citizens: Teaching Civics in K-12 Classrooms
Author(s): Jeremiah Clabough & Timothy Lintner (Eds.)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1641132663, Pages: 224, Year: 2018
Search for book at Amazon.com

In the edited volume No Reluctant Citizens: Teaching Civics in K-12 Classrooms, editors Jeremiah Clabough and Timothy Lintner present instructional strategies and approaches that teachers can implement across a variety of grade levels and social studies content areas. In his introductory chapter, Clabough names several challenges facing democratic societies, concluding that “our current political climate is toxic” (p. 2). This reality helps us to imagine why students may be “reluctant citizens.” In response, Clabough reiterates the call from the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) for instruction that “enables students not only to study how others participate, but also to practice participating and taking informed action themselves” (NCSS, 2013, p. 31).

Further building on the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework (NCSS, 2013), each of the chapters in No Reluctant Citizens explicitly references the Inquiry Arc based on the following components: (a) developing questions and planning inquiries; (b) applying disciplinary concepts and tools; (c) evaluating sources and using evidence; and (d) communicating conclusions and taking informed action. The book’s first section consists of six chapters on teaching social studies in elementary classrooms. The seven chapters in the second section detail secondary social studies instructional approaches.

In Chapter Two, co-editor Jeremiah Clabough describes the importance of civic literacy. He presents instructional strategies focused on analyzing primary sources and recommends a different summarizing activity for each lesson. In Chapter Three, Thomas N. Turner presents a detailed comparison of character education frameworks. His accessible pedagogical approaches invite students to reflect on the character traits they appreciate in their friends, how they would respond to provided scenarios, the meaning of national symbols, and “presidents of high character” (p. 32).

In Chapter Four, Janie Hubbard problematizes the term “diversity” within elementary civics education. Hubbard advocates for “cultural humility” (p. 39) and “assets-based teaching” (p. 40). She recommends four “teacher-tested” approaches: producing a Family History Museum, crafting digital stories based on family interviews, incorporating multiple perspectives through inquiry, and exploring citizenship values, skills, and knowledge through multimodal conceptual development activities. I valued the clarity of purpose in Hubbard’s conclusion when she noted that “teachers who embrace cultural humility honor students by helping them define personal and social identities and their places within the shared society” (p. 45). In Chapter Five, Jason Harshman and Lauren Darby provide a case study of fifth grade students who conducted historical inquiry into the naming of their elementary school. Harshman and Darby cite Critical Race Theory as an organizing framework for the “anti-racist research project” (p. 54) in which students at Helen Lemme Elementary School investigated the civil rights activism of their school’s namesake.

In Chapter Six, Kristy Brugar presents fiction and nonfiction children’s literature that engages students in exploring human rights. Brugar maps a six-lesson instructional unit onto the C3 Framework’s (NCSS, 2013) Inquiry Arc. Her lessons include examining The Declaration of Human Rights and reading about assigned human rights activists. The unit culminates in the teacher reading aloud the students’ mini-biographies and compiling them into a single volume for the classroom library. In Chapter Seven, Brooke Blevins, Karon LeCompte, and Tyler Ellis describe Action Civics approaches for middle school students. They explain how brainstorming community issues, building coalitions, and examining underlying causes of local problems can scaffold active engagement. They recommend inviting local attorneys or other community members as judges for a “Shark Tank” activity during which students pitch their researched solutions.

In Chapter Eight, co-editor Timothy Lintner frames the second section of the book with an emphasis on addressing controversial issues in secondary social studies instruction. Lintner acknowledges that controversy can be “opaque, unwieldy, and, if taught with fidelity, a bit uncomfortable” (p. 97). He invites teachers to face these challenges head on, stressing the importance of active and proactive facilitation of rich discussion. Lintner then provides multimodal resources that teachers can use to prepare students for debates on three compelling questions: (a) Was Chamberlin Weak or Wise? ( ) Should Students Be Required to Wear Uniforms? and (c) Should Euthanasia or Physician-Assisted Suicide Be Legal? The specificity of Lintner’s plans, including video weblinks and pedagogical approaches, inspired confidence and led me to consider when I might examine this chapter with my preservice teachers.

In Chapter Nine, Wayne Journell challenges teachers to “combat ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’” (p. 113) through media literacy. Building on a recent related article (Journell, 2017), Journell provides examples and guiding questions for both interrogating individual sources (e.g., articles, internet memes) and evaluating the trustworthiness of media outlets. In Chapter Ten, Scott Roberts and Charles Efler also foreground the role of media literacy, focusing their analysis on state and local elections. The authors present two eighth grade civics lessons that engage students in evaluating advertisements.

In Chapter Eleven, Mark Pearcy presents the Revolution at Sherman High School simulation as a strategy that allows students to experience democracy in action. The approach engages students in a series of deliberations that draw on their own experiences and interests as high school students. In Chapter Twelve, Greg Samuels advocates for service-learning in the pursuit of social justice. Samuels provides a list of informed action options, from meeting with a food bank director to analyzing local grocery stores to developing a social media campaign. The strength of this chapter is providing social studies teachers with a broad array of informed action suggestions, highlighting the variety of ways in which students can communicate with authentic audiences beyond the classroom.

In Chapter Thirteen, Natalie Keefer presents another simulation, this one focused on human rights violations against children. The chapter details a five-step pedagogical approach: (a) first-person visualization; (b) analysis of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; (c) research on contemporary human rights violations; (d) role playing a judge or lawyer at the International Court of Justice at The Hague; and (e) reflecting on the process through a RAFT (Role, Audience, Formant, Topic) writing assignment. I appreciated how both Keefer and Brugar (in Chapter Six) went to the source and suggested students analyze the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a way of “evaluating sources and using evidence” (NCSS, 2013), as well as anchoring the conversation.

In the Fourteenth and final chapter, Ken Carano draws on notions of global citizenship to operationalize the C3 Framework (NCSS, 2013). He presents four approaches that help teachers to meet the goals of both disciplinary inquiry and global citizenship: exploring intercultural awareness through examining social media sites; engaging global literacy through study of the effects of tourism; examining social justice through investigating African American experiences during the Cold War; and experiencing service-learning through inquiry-based advocacy for child soldiers. A strength of this chapter is linking the C3 Framework’s Inquiry Arc with a detailed framework that helps teachers to see the rationale behind selected inquiries.   

In conclusion, No Reluctant Citizen adds to the pedagogical literature on how to implement the C3 Framework within diverse curricular and theoretical contexts. In a time of pervasive political trauma (Sondel et al., 2018) and education reforms that encourage students “to comply and recite affirmations about their grit” (Love, 2019, p. 70), the approaches in this book offer discerning social studies teachers resources and pedagogies that can lead to informed action. Teachers who want to invest in “active and responsible citizens” will benefit from the suggestions for how to engage students in “deliberating with other people about how to define and address issues; taking constructive, collaborative action; reflecting on their actions; creating and sustaining groups; and influencing institutions both large and small” (NCSS, 2013, p. 19).


Journell, W. (2017). Fake news, alternative facts, and Trump: Teaching social studies in a post-truth era. Social Studies Journal, 37, 8–21.

Love, B. L. (2019). We want to do more than survive: Abolitionist teaching and the pursuit of educational freedom. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

National Council for the Social Studies. (2013). The college, career, and civic life (C3) framework for social studies state standards: Guidance for enhancing the rigor of K-12 civics, economics, geography, and history. Silver Spring, MD: Author.

Sondel, B., Baggett, H. C., & Dunn, A. H. (2018). “For millions of people, this is real trauma”: A pedagogy of political trauma in the wake of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Teaching and Teacher Education, 70, 175–185.


Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: July 03, 2019
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22956, Date Accessed: 7/16/2019 12:24:11 AM

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About the Author
  • Paul Yoder
    Eastern Mennonite University
    E-mail Author
    PAUL J. YODER is an Assistant Professor of Teacher Education at Eastern Mennonite University. A former TESOL and middle school social studies teacher, his scholarship focuses on the teaching and learning of history and social studies among culturally and linguistically diverse student populations. Recent publications include: Jaffee, A. T., & Yoder, P. J. (2019). Teaching social studies to English language learners: Current research, theories, and pedagogical practices. In L. C. de Oliveira (Ed.), Handbook of TESOL in K-12 (pp. 307-321). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Karam, F. J., Kibler, A. K., & Yoder, P. J. (2017). “Because even us, Arabs, now speak English”: Syrian refugee teachers’ investment in English as a foreign language. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 60, 169-182.
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