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Citizenship in the 21st Century

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Who is (or ought to be) included in citizenship? Who gets to decide? What responsibilities come with citizenship? Is citizenship analogous to being a friend, a family member, a business partner?

Students have class outside

What makes this course unique:

This seminar will address both the historical roots as well as the future of citizenship, especially as it comes under stress from populism, authoritarianism, climate change, and other challenges. Starting with Stanford’s fundamental standard, we ask how citizenship in a community needs to be constantly redefined and reinvigorated for each new era.

Course Description

Citizenship is not just what passport you hold or where you were born. Citizenship also means equal membership in a self-governing political community. We will explore some of the many debates about this ideal: How have people excluded from citizenship fought for, and sometimes won, inclusion? These debates have a long history, featuring in some of the earliest recorded philosophy and literature but also animating current political debates in the United States and elsewhere. This course satisfies the Ethical Reasoning or Social Inquiry Way (ER or SI).

Inside the Citizenship Seminar

Sample Assignment: Moments of Citizenship at Stanford

Stanford students have a long history of pushing hard for their vision of a more just, more inclusive citizenship. This assignment asks students to research a point in Stanford’s history when accepted ideas about citizenship were being challenged. For example, in the mid-1960s, students, faculty, and administrators fiercely debated Stanford’s links with the U.S. military in the midst of the war in Vietnam. In the 1980s, Stanford students pushed for a more inclusive curriculum, a debate that caught the attention of national media. Learning more about these moments is not just a matter of local history; research for this assignment will uncover the ways students continue to take the lead in redefining citizenship.

In Citizenship in the 21st Century, you will read texts including:

  • Tracy K. Smith’s erasure poem “Declaration”
  • Plato’s Apology and Crito
  • Ursula K. LeGuin’s short story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.”


COLLEGE 102: Citizenship in the 21st Century is 3 units and meets 2x/week for 80 minutes. It satisfies Way-ER or Way-SI. See ExploreCourses for detailed schedule offerings (to be updated in mid-August).

Who's Teaching You?

In addition to all of our COLLEGE Teaching Fellows, faculty from around the university will offer a Citizenship in the 21st Century seminar.

  • Assistant Professor of Philosophy
  • Lecturer
  • William H. Bonsall Professor of French and Professor, by courtesy, of History and of Political Science
  • George E. Osborne Professor of Law
  • Professor of Biology
  • Kenneth & Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law
  • Assistant Professor of Earth System Science and, by courtesy, of Geophysics & Center Fellow, by courtesy, at the Woods Institute for the Environment
  • Carl and Elizabeth Naumann Professorship for the Dean of the School of Medicine, Professor of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery (OHNS) and, by courtesy, of Neurobiology and of Bioengineering
  • Ann O'Day Maples Professor of the Arts and Professor of English
  • Vernon R. and Lysbeth Warren Anderson Dean of the School of H&S, The Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society and Professor, by courtesy, of Political Science
  • Associate Professor of Geophysics
  • Associate Professor of Religious Studies and, by courtesy, German Studies
  • Assistant Professor of Economics
  • Olive H. Palmer Professor of the Humanities, Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment and Professor, by courtesy, of Law and of Political Science
  • Assistant Professor of Computer Science and, by courtesy, of Electrical Engineering and of Law
  • Richard W. Lyman Professor of the Humanities and Professor, by courtesy, of Comparative Literature
  • Assistant Professor of Computer Science and of Electrical Engineering