What is Civics? According to Merriam-Webster, civics is defined as “a social science dealing with the rights and duties of citizens.” This seems pretty clear that children should be taught what being a responsible citizen is all about. They should be learning the basics of the founding of our nation and how our government is structured. Reading the founding documents that provided the genesis to our constitutional republic. Instruction that informs them there are three branches of government as well as federal, state, and local levels.
So why do the progressives want to rename the subject to Action Civics or Civic Engagement? Could it be part of the nefarious efforts to cancel American culture? Call me skeptical, but I believe this is an ongoing effort to continue to take advantage of the situation. Remember a statement saying something like never let a crisis go to waste? Our republic has been enduring a virus that shutdown our economy, schools, businesses, and quite frankly, our lives.
Given the most recent testing scores reported by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP, U.S. Department of Education), it’s no wonder Civics is on the radar. These numbers reflect on a scale of 100 the percent of students tested that are proficient in the subject.
Grades 4th 8th 12th
Civics 27 24 24
Mathematics 41 34 24
Reading 35 34 37
U.S. History 20 15 12
Writing 28 27 27
Of the reported subject areas, Civics ranks 27 or the second lowest in 4th grade. However, by the 12th grade it maintains the second lowest score (tied with math), but drops three points to 24. Fewer than 25 percent of graduating students understand how government operates. Given the role of government in our lives, this truly is alarming!
One recent effort to highlight is the announcement by Governor DeSantis of Florida in mid-March regarding the Civic Literacy Excellence Initiative. His statement included, “Let me be clear, there is no room in our classrooms for things like Critical Race Theory. Teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other is not worth one red cent of taxpayer money. We will invest in actual, solid, true curriculum, and we will be a leader in the development and implementation of a world class civics education.” A worthy effort to curtail the woke-ness that’s invading education, but implementation is where the rubber meets the road. It will be critical to understand the policy and how it will be interpreted and put into practice.
While the Governor is introducing this initiative, the legislature is proposing SB 146: Civic Education and HB 611: Civic Literacy Education. These bills are different regarding the language used to identify what civic education means. The house bill speaks specifically to “civic engagement” while the senate bill speaks specifically to “nonpartisan civic literacy.” These phrases are understood by many to support differing outcomes.
Stanley Kurtz of National Review writes: “Texas is target number one in the Left’s play to turn the red states blue with a radicalized version of “civics.” What is variously called “action civics,” “civic engagement,” or “project-based civics,” requires K-12 students to engage in political protests, lobbying, and internships with advocacy organizations, all for course credit.” I’m all for 1st amendment rights, but the K-12 education system should not be providing instruction for these types of skills. Civic engagement is a parental responsibility.
Kurtz also writes Texas legislators have proposed bills modeled after Illinois and Massachusetts. The Illinois legislature passed laws in 2015 that included “Alinsky-style community organizing” and recently supplemented statewide teaching standards. Also, he identifies that “top-quality history standards” were gutted in Massachusetts.
Initiatives like Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project are efforts that continue to divide our constitutional republic versus unite or heal the perceived woes many on the left are decrying. Yes, our nation is a republic, not a democracy. Also, if unity was really a concern, why did the current administration do away with the 1776 Commission? Could it be that civic scores are already low and presenting facts doesn’t benefit the left’s agenda? An effort to ensure children learned the basics regarding our founding fathers and the beginning of the United States of America is critical to the sustainability of our great constitutional republic.
Take heart! The good news is bold action is coming from state leaders like Governor DeSantis and parent led organizations while legislators are being spotlighted for the anti-American legislation being proposed.