I’m on the board for the Center for Civic Education, a role I got for my expertise in learning technology, but a group I’ve become proud to be affiliated with. Their programs have incredible benefits for the students as well as society, as has been demonstrated internationally, and I think an understanding of civics is a necessary part of a wise curriculum. Imagine my dismay to read that the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Civics Report Card shows that “the vast majority of our young people are either not taught civics and government at all, or they are taught too little, too late, and inadequately” to quote Chuck Quigley, Executive Director of the Center.
The site for the report of course cites the improvements, but looking at the scores, they’re at about 50%, at best, across the board. Lower in certain demographics, as you’d expect. The standards actually come from the Center, and I’ve seen the diligence with which they develop them, (they’re publically available, too) so I have some idea just what’s at stake. (And, of course, the Center has solutions for addressing the problem, so I’m well aware of their vested interest in drawing attention to the gap, but the problem remains.)
I’ve seen how civics education can increase participation in society, reduce violence, and increase mutual self-respect. I also care that people understand government so they can vote from an informed perspective (which seems to be something severely lacking). So the lack of civics education is a concern.
I’m not a fan of No Child Left Untested, er, Behind, for a host of reasons (and fortunately, far more knowledge people than me have made the point, including Jim Pellegrino in a commissioned paper on behalf of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce). Moreover, our funding situation strangling school budgets and tying so much to rote skills is eliminating civics, science, and more.
I care about our society, and that’s why I’m in education as I think it’s the best way to ensure a positive future, so it continues to dismay me that we can’t seem to solve the problems in schools. When you have a chance to make a choice, do think about education and the future. Please?