Saturday, December 27, 2014

Civics Education Making a Comeback

Well, it's about time.

As it is, we're teaching America's dumbest generation.

At the Wall Street Journal, "Civics Instruction Moves Up in Class: More States Mandate Tests on the Subject Amid a Movement for Use of Citizenship Exam":
After years on the back burner of the nation’s educational agenda, civics is making a comeback, with a number of states mandating new classes or assessments and a burgeoning national push for high-school seniors to pass the exam required of new citizens.

For the first time this past school year, a civics exam in Florida counted toward students’ grades, following a mandated class and exam instated the year before, while students in Tennessee started facing a required test two years ago. The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education mandated that the subject be a key component for learning at the state’s colleges and universities starting this school year. Both California and Illinois have statewide task forces and local projects aimed at embedding civics in schools.

“We’re seeing more rumblings of states and local districts recognizing the need for civic engagement, especially for youth,” said Paul Baumann, director of the National Center for Learning and Civic Engagement at the Education Commission of the States, a nonprofit.

Recent national reports show students could use a lesson in civics, which generally studies the role of citizens in public issues and covers such topics as how to dissect current events or apply the Constitution to modern issues. About two-thirds of students tested below proficient on the civics portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress in both 2006 and 2010. Only 10 states require a social-studies test to graduate from high school, according to the Education Commission of the States.

Recent federal policies, such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, linked money to tests on math and reading, and concerns about a shortcoming in job skills has pressured leaders to focus more on science, technology, engineering and math.

A Center on Education Policy study found in 2007 that about 45% of elementary schools reported cutting time for other subjects to focus on math and reading. And only about one in three elementary teachers reported covering civics subjects on a regular basis, according to federal survey data taken in 2006 and 2010.

Proponents say enhancing civics instruction could help reverse low voter turnout—about one in five adults ages 18 to 29 voted in the 2014 midterms, according to researchers at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service—and address mounting frustration with dysfunction in Washington. They also say it can help increase engagement by minorities and the poor, who typically receive less civics education than more affluent and white students.

“There’s a stronger sense from people now that we must do something in order to be functional as a nation and at the community level,” said Meira Levinson, an associate professor of education at Harvard University who has studied civic-empowerment issues.

Meanwhile, coalitions in seven states have launched a growing movement to require students to pass the U.S. citizenship exam before they can graduate. By the end of next year, proponents aim to introduce and pass legislation in 12 to 15 states.

“So little has been done over so many years now, let’s make sure we take that one solid first step,” said Sam Stone, political director for the Civics Education Initiative, an affiliate of the Joe Foss Institute, a nonpartisan nonprofit based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

But some backers of more civics study doubt the value of the 100-question citizenship exam, arguing it is more about rote memorization than learning how to be a better citizen...
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