“It is imperative if we are going to survive as a nation that our schools teach civics,” said retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor . “Knowledge and understanding about our system of government is not something that’s handed down in the gene pool. You have to learn it.”
Civic education a prime concern more so today than ever as we are now observing the results of lack of grounding in civics displayed by millennials during the past year. There is no more important task than the development of an informed, effective, and responsible citizenry. Science and mathematics are important but so is knowing how and why government works or what is involved in the process not just from today’s perspective but from the founding days.
Many more than a few have written abstracts, papers, and articles on civics and the lack thereof within the educational system. Out of concern several on-line groups started up to address the lack of solid understanding of the constitution, civics, and how they should be taught using historically accurate information. Just one example of many is an abstract written in June 2011 titled “Civic Literacy: Charting the Dimensions and Consequences of a Civic Deficit.”
Up until 2011, though waning in popularity,dedicated civics classes were still mostly a core curriculum in all grade levels. I wonder how many students though have passed through from elementary school to graduate with only a minimum grounding in civics? Like any course, educators have to enjoy, understand, and be able to communicate that love of our past, present, and future. With so many of our students over the years being influenced by those who were determined to denigrate and destroy our foundations either in the classroom or through educational materials, it is hardly likely many students received information on the topic that was encouraging and well-rounded.
Arne Duncan was Obama’s chosen leader for the Department of Education from 2009 until 2015. In March 2011, he wrote a press release on Civic Education. It the release he stated the department of education was moving in an “effort to strengthen and reinvigorate civics education.” In his speech before the iCivics “Educating for Democracy in a Digital Age” conference, he emphasized several takeaways from the conference that he hoped would be highlighted.
1) The first is that a foundation in civics is not a luxury but a necessity. Students today absolutely need a sense of citizenship, an understanding of their history and government, and a commitment to democratic values. They need to know their rights–and their responsibilities. Civics cannot be pushed to the sidelines in schools.
2) Civics instruction needs to be more engaging and interactive, both inside and outside of the classroom. It’s no secret that many young people find civics and government instruction to be dusty and dull. It’s time to revitalize and update civic education for the twenty-first century.
In 2011 according to his speech, the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that less than one-third of American fourth, eighth, and twelfth grade students were proficient in civics. The NAEP also showed distressing disparities in civic knowledge between white students and minority students–or what’s known as the “civic achievement gap.”
And yet, the federal government withdrew all funding for civics education in 2011. Federal funding for civics education through the U.S. Department of Education was zeroed out, cutting nearly $35 million of support from the civics education community. From that point forward even private grants began to decline.
Instead, into the breech of the elimination of civics curriculums where foundations, morals, values, and principles were addressed, liberals began pushing what to them was “proper civic training”. Their view of what our constitution should be — an evolving constitution meant to reflect their ideals rather than the written constitution — gained traction. Thus began the rapid erosion and politicization of our children’s concept of civics.
Participatory politics instead became the by-words found not in a single course but throughout whatever courses were being taught. In case you are wondering, participatory politics are interactive, peer-based acts through which individuals and groups seek to exert both voice and influence on issues of public concern. Examples of participatory political acts range from blogging and circulating political news, to starting a new political group, to creating petitions, to mobilizing one’s social network on behalf of a cause. Sound familiar?
In other words, down with the standard model of civic education which socialist, liberals, and left-leaning considered dull, uninteresting, and anti-socialist values. Instead, they pushed political activism without a solid foundation in historical accuracy, purpose, or respect. Had those curriculum goals still been prevalent, then some of the total moronic attitudes expressed in the last year might have been avoided. People tend to be harder to fool when they have had a better grounding in civics.
For instance, in Illinois in 2015, Governor Bruce Rauner mandated a new civic program for the state – “Civics course content shall focus on government institutions, the discussion of current and controversial issues, service learning, and simulations of the democratic process.” according to the Chicago Tribune. Certainly worthy but where are the groundings in the constitution, loyalty, purpose of country, the process of governing, the roles of the different levels of governance, and other really important aspects of civics for students to build upon? Were they also mandated? Given the current issues in the state, have these even been provided in class lessons for the last twenty years?
I am not specifically picking on Illinois, it just happened to be the first reference I pulled up in an internet search. I seriously doubt any other states are any more focused on the civics curriculum either. Stop gap senior high school measures are only a band-aid on a much larger problem.
We have allowed our country to deteriorate simply by deciding one subject over another is more important. How can we hope to have a stable constitutionally sound government in the future when we are deliberately allowing the one best channel to provide for a better future to be deleted from our children’s schooling?
One of the tenets listed under Marxism is to destroy the foundations of a country’s beliefs, values, and government through education. Well, at least two past presidents and their executive branch appointments certainly took that little checklist to heart. Now we HAVE to take back control and begin the long, arduous process of trying to return to our heritage and civic responsibilities.
Hat’s off to Comcast536 for sending me information on this. I hope I did the subject at least some justice. It definitely explains why we are seeing such a break down right now in understanding and constitutional commitment.
Below are a few resources for those interested. There are many more sites across the web. However, be careful of the wording. I ran across a couple that sounded pretty good but when I went deeper simply did not seem to meet constitutional standards but were more politicized.
ICivic was started and supported by Justice O’Connor in response to concerns on the lack of knowledge being taught today. It focuses on all phases and purposes of government from local to county and on up.
The Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) is an online resource available to provide U.S. Constitution by connecting individuals — including students, teachers, lawyers and judges — with the documentary history of its creation, ratification, and amendment.
The Dreyfuss Civics Initiative is an organization that aims to revive the teaching of civics in American public education to empower future generations with the critical-thinking skills they need to fulfill the vast potential of American citizenship.
Update: forgot to add the following for Dreyfuss:
Vol. 2, No. 5; November 2015 Journal of Education and Social Policy
Home School organizations like HSLDA actually have good literature for education on civics. Some families live in states whose home education statutes specifically require studies of civics and/or government. Parents of public or private schools students who want to strengthen civic education for their children might consider reading the materials in order to get ideas and be proactive. Homeschooling has come a long way since the 1980’s.
Founding Fathers Quotes