In the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards, the call for students to become more prepared for the challenges of college and career is united with a third critical element: preparation for civic life. Advocates of citizenship education cross the political spectrum, but they are bound by a common belief that our democratic republic will not sustain unless students are aware of their changing cultural and physical environments; know the past; read, write, and think deeply; and act in ways that promote the common good. There will always be differing perspectives on these objectives. The goal of knowledgeable, thinking, and active citizens, however, is universal.


Now more than ever, students need the intellectual power to recognize societal problems; ask good questions and develop robust investigations into them; consider possible solutions and consequences; separate evidence-based claims from parochial opinions; and communicate and act upon what they learn. And most importantly, they must possess the capability and commitment to repeat that process as long as is necessary. Young people need strong tools for, and methods of, clear and disciplined thinking in order to traverse successfully the worlds of college, career, and civic life.


Representatives from a group of state education agencies and from the leading organizations in social studies and its individual disciplines collaborated to create a Framework to provide states with voluntary guidance for upgrading existing social studies standards. This Framework does not include all that can or should be included in a set of robust social studies standards, and intentionally preserves the critical choices around the selection of curricular content taught at each grade level as a decision best made by each state. The Framework aims to support states in creating standards that prepare young people for effective and successful participation in college, careers, and civic life.


The C3 Framework is centered on an Inquiry Arc—a set of interlocking and mutually supportive ideas that frame the ways students learn social studies content. By focusing on inquiry, the framework emphasizes the disciplinary concepts and practices that support students as they develop the capacity to know, analyze, explain, and argue about interdisciplinary challenges in our social world. It includes descriptions of the structure and tools of the disciplines, as well as the habits of mind common in those disciplines. Taken together, the C3 Framework provides guidance to states on upgrading state social studies standards to include the application of knowledge within the disciplines of civics, economics, geography, and history as students develop questions and plan inquiries; apply disciplinary concepts and tools; evaluate and use evidence; and communicate conclusions and take informed action.


The C3 Framework focuses on inquiry skills and key concepts, and guides—not prescribes—the choice of curricular content necessary for a rigorous social studies program. Content is critically important to the disciplines within social studies, and individual state leadership will be required to select appropriate and relevant content. States that decide to incorporate the Inquiry Arc and concepts of the C3 Framework into their state standards will then need to engage in a rigorous local process of selecting the appropriate content to be taught at each grade level to ensure that students develop the knowledge and skills to be civic-ready before graduation. The concepts expressed in the C3 Framework illustrate the disciplinary ideas, such as political structures, economic decision making, spatial patterns, and chronological sequencing, that help organize the curriculum and content states select.


As a core area in the K-12 curriculum, social studies prepares students for their postsecondary futures, including the disciplinary practices and literacies needed for college-level work in social studies academic courses, and the critical thinking, problem solving, and collaborative skills needed for the workplace. The C3 Framework encourages the development of state social studies standards that support students in learning to be actively engaged in civic life. Engagement in civic life requires knowledge and experience; children learn to be citizens by working individually and together as citizens. An essential element of social studies education, therefore, is experiential—practicing the arts and habits of civic life.


Reflecting the shared responsibility for literacy learning put forward by the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, the C3 Framework fully incorporates and extends the expectations from the grades K-5 English Language Arts standards and the grades 6-12 standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. The C3 Framework also recognizes the importance of literacy within the Common Core Standards for Mathematics, and acknowledges mathematical practices as they apply to social studies inquiry.