Effect of Educational System Development on Active Citizenship: Ideas of Barack Obama, Eleanor Roosevelt, Steven Schwartz

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When describing the importance of education, it is important for one to look at the big picture of education and the end goal of a country having educated citizens. In a democracy, it is important that individuals are aware of their responsibilities, rights, and power as a citizen so that they can be active, participatory citizens. The education of these responsibilities, rights, and powers allows citizens to participate fully in events within a country. This level of active citizenship can be achieved through the development of the educational system. Knowledge gained through the educational system has the ability to equip the new generation to raise their awareness of their abilities for social mobility and social justice through active citizenship. Those affected by such educational developments are primarily the youth enrolled in K-12 and higher education in the United States, and this paper is going to explore “To what extent does the development of the educational system affect active citizenship in the U.S.?”. Generally, improved economic prospects, social mobility, and social justice is sought to be achieved through encouraging active citizenship and educating students on their roles as citizens. Three authors from different expertises help to explore this: President Barack Obama, former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and university educator Steven Schwartz all explore their perspectives on how the development of the educational system affects active citizenship.

Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt describes the purpose of education as the production of citizens. In “Good Citizenship: The Purpose of Education”, Roosevelt explains that the purpose of education is to raise awareness of citizen’s civic duties and encouraging citizens to be active in political issues, despite the misconception that these things do not involve the average citizen. She explains that the educational system should teach youth how to be more engaged as a citizen and that through “The child seeing and understanding these things will begin to envisage the varied pattern of the life of a great nation such as ours and how his own life and environment fit into the pattern and where his own usefulness may lie.” (Roosevelt,3) Roosevelt argues that education is the key to fighting against the disempowerment of the average citizen and it is through education that citizens will discover their ability to affect change in politics. To further explain this, she quotes her husband, former President Theodore Roosevelt, who believed that when citizens are unhappy with their country. “The blame lay no more heavily on the politician… than on the shoulders of the average citizen who concerned himself so little with his government that he allowed men to stay in power in spite of his dissatisfaction.” (Roosevelt,1). Roosevelt also explains that the education of natural born citizens continues the development of active citizens because it allows “new entrants” of this country learn about citizenship as well. Citizenship should be fully inclusive of all those in the country; Roosevelt goes on to explain “I think we, who are already citizens, should realize how greatly our attitude influences newcomers”. (Roosevelt,6). Roosevelt explains that citizens’ active citizenship and involvement in civic duties should be prominent enough to be impactful on new immigrants and continue the development of active citizenship. Roosevelt explains that with these attitudes, combined with access to education, new immigrants can also fully participate in the politics of the United States as well.

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Similar to Roosevelt’s idea that the educational system contributes to active citizenship, Steven Schwartz considers the same conclusion but from a different perspective. In “The Higher Purpose”, Schwartz explains that the goals of education consist of greater social justice and social mobility, two concepts closely related to citizenship. Social justice and social mobility accomplished through civic engagement creates benefits for all those in the public body. Schwartz believes that this can be accomplished through university education, explaining that “Universities contribute to a just society in two ways: by producing graduates who improve social life and by promoting social mobility.” (Schwartz, 1). Schwartz argues that university education encourages active citizenship by preparing students to become lawyers, teachers, scientists and doctors who work towards the greater public good and raises our standards of living. Schwartz proposes that “Participation in higher education means exposure to liberal social attitudes about the value of individuals.” (Schwartz, 2) and by creating more educational opportunities and allowing greater access to university education we can create a more active and participatory citizen population. Schwartz believes that education will equip students to respect different cultures and understand the equality of rights. An exposure to “liberal social attitudes” (Schwartz, 2) can achieve greater active citizenship because it expands the perspectives of this generation to make judgements of social injustices and fully understand the importance and power of democracy.

While Roosevelt and Schwartz both agreed that the development of the educational system contributes to active citizenship, President Barack Obama brings a unique perspective by also pointing out the economic and democratic benefits of citizen education. President Obama discuss how a better educational system for every citizen can develop a more democratic, economically stable, and ultimately, more civically engaged society. Obama explains that investing money in education programs helps students grow into more productive members of society, explaining that “For every dollar we invest in these programs, we get nearly $10 back in reduced welfare rolls, fewer care costs and less crime” (Obama, 3). By committing less crime and making more independent income, these citizens who have benefited from increased spending in education have the ability to have more of a stake in their civic engagement through paying taxes and keeping their ability to vote. Obama supports the idea of supporting educational programs from the beginning of student’s lives, leading to a higher likelihood of these students pursuing higher education. Obama also addresses the issue of unequal distribution of resources, saying “The relative decline of American education is untenable for our economy, unsustainable for our democracy, it's unacceptable for our children -- and we can't afford to let it continue.” (Obama, 2) As a president of the United States, Obama has experience in representing the interests of all states and all citizens, which makes his advocacy for the development of our educational system even more poignant. Obama argues that the U.S must use education as a tool to make sure citizens have the proper tools to take part in civic decisions.

Even though the three authors all have different perspectives, all three maintain a significant amount of common ground. Roosevelt and Schwartz both focused on the social improvements to be gained from more active citizens; however, Roosevelt also emphasized a strong importance on the democratic value of educating citizens, a point echoed by Obama. Obama pointed out the economic benefits of more active citizenship, an aspect largely neglected by Roosevelt and Schwartz. While Schwartz brought attention to the prospects of a more university educated population of citizens, Obama expanded on this idea by arguing for the potential gains of having a population which receives a better K-12 education as well. Ultimately, all three authors agree that there are benefits to be gained by developing the educational system and using education as a means to improve citizen’s civic engagement and activity.


  1. Obama, Barack. “U.S. Education Policy.” C-SPAN, 10 Mar. 2009, www.c-span.org/video/?284530-1/us-education-policy.
  2. Roosevelt, Eleanor. “Good Citizenship: The Purpose of Education.” Pictorial Review, 31 Apr.
  3. 1930: 4, 94, 97. Rpt. in The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project. The George Washington U, www2.gwu.edu/~erpapers/documents/articles/goodcitizenship.cfm.
  4. Schwartz, Steven. “The Higher Purpose.” Times Higher Education, 16 May 2003, www.timeshighereducation.com/comment/columnists/the-higher-purpose/176727.article.
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Effect of Educational System Development on Active Citizenship: Ideas of Barack Obama, Eleanor Roosevelt, Steven Schwartz. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/effect-of-educational-system-development-on-active-citizenship-ideas-of-barack-obama-eleanor-roosevelt-steven-schwartz/
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