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Civic Duty: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:02 Definition of Civic Duty
  • 1:30 Examples of Civic Duties
  • 3:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephen Benz

Stephen has taught history, journalism, sociology, and political science courses at multiple levels, including the middle school, high school and college levels. He has a JD and a BA in sociology and political science.

Civic duties are legally mandated responsibilities that all citizens are required to fulfill. Failure to fulfill these obligations could result in legal punishment. We'll look at some examples in American society.

Definition of Civic Duty

Muhammad Ali is known by many as the greatest boxer of the 20th century. He was known for his speed, skill, and trash-talking demeanor. Despite his presence in the ring, Ali also made headlines with his refusal to be conscripted into the American military during the Vietnam War. Ali was opposed to the war and said that serving in the military was against his religion. Because Ali refused to serve in the military, he was arrested and charged with draft evasion. Although his conviction was later overturned by the Supreme Court, Ali's case illustrates the essential nature of a civic duty.

A civic duty is an action required by law for a citizen to perform. One civic duty is to serve in the military if drafted by the United States. Because Ali refused to be drafted, he was arrested for not fulfilling his civic duty. It should be noted, though, that in part because of the protests against the Vietnam War, the United States will only use military drafts in the most extreme cases.

At this point, it is probably a good idea to differentiate between a civic duty and a civic responsibility. While a civic duty is required by law, a civic responsibility is not necessarily required by law. But a civic responsibility is stressed as a socially good behavior to perform. Examples of civic responsibility include voting in elections, signing up for the military, volunteering in the community, participating in government politics, and holding public office.

Examples of Civic Duties

Some examples of civic duties include:

Taxes

As much as we may hate taxes, we all know that without taxes the government would be ineffective at performing essential government services. For this reason, one of the first obligations of citizens in the United States is to pay taxes. Failure to pay federal or state taxes could result in harsh penalties from the Internal Revenue Service, including jail time for tax evasion.

Going to School

In the United States, attending school is mandatory. If a student does not attend school, their parents can be fined severely by local authorities. Most states have established a minimum age that students have to continue studying to.

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