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Did You Know? Citizen Manual Edition

By Elizabeth Triden

Executive Director, Science & Social Studies 

Did you know that back in the day, Detroit Public Schools published a “Citizen Manual” full of important information for students on how to vote, all about local politics, and learning about city services?  This “Citizen Manual” was published multiple times over the course of the district’s history from as early as 1938.

Detroit Manual for Citizens

DPS’s “Citizen Manual” went through at least 8 editions over the years.  The last publication date for this book is 1968 but students continued to learn from this text through the 1970s.

Recently, the Social Studies Department, in collaboration with CitizenDetroit republished the “Citizen Manual,” modernizing all the important information found in previous versions.  The updated manual launched in 2021 with a corresponding workbook in all civics classes.

In our new version, students learn about important city activists and leaders such as Horace Sheffield, Sr., Nelson “Jack” Edwards, The League of Revolutionary Black Workers, and many others who have carved a path for our youth today.  Students trace the history of unions and organizing, learn about city departments and their functions, and take part in mini civic action challenges like signing up to be a “Documenter” to be a note-taker at public meetings.  As we launch Black History month, we are proud to showcase the work and legacy of African Americans right here in our city.

Importantly, the “Citizen Manual” gives students the tools to be informed civic participants in our elections.  With activities like the 5 P’s to help students evaluate political candidates and helping students learn how to make a plan to vote, this text encourages students to engage in our democracy.

By using this manual, our hope is that students will understand:  

  • The role that local government plays in shaping the world around them.  
  • Their rights and responsibilities as citizens of Detroit.  
  • How to utilize local government to answer their own questions. 

And our intent is to inspire students to:  

  • Be civically engaged in local government.  
  • Advocate for their interests and the interests of those closest to them. 

How are teachers feeling about this material?  Teachers have been thoroughly enjoying teaching this material!  Ms. Sadye James from Southeastern High School loves how relevant the material is for students.  Mrs. Erlington, also from Southeastern, wishes she had this text when she was in school so that she was taught how to advocate.

Please ask your child about their experience with the Citizen Manual in their civics class!

Grab your copy of the Citizen Manual here.