Cutting Civics from School Curricula: An Unjust Move

With the school year either coming up or starting in many states, kids are preparing to learn a multitude of subjects: history, English, Math, and Science, to name a few.

One subject will be noticeably absent for some kids: Civics.

Civics, which is defined as “a social science dealing with the rights and duties of citizens,”[1] can teach students about, among other things:

  1. The importance of voting;
  2. How to know who their representatives are;
  3. How they can be involved in the legislative process, by writing to their representatives about important issues (or calling their legislators);
  4. How people can use their representatives to solve a wide range of issues (provided the representative is responsive, of course);
  5. How to follow the affairs of the government in your city, state, and country.

Teaching kids about these things, and more, through a vibrant Civics curriculum, should be an absolute no-brainer. It promotes civic involvement and awareness of local affairs.

And yet, it seems like Civics education is often on the chopping block in school districts, states, and even federally.[2]

When these cuts come to fruition, what this means is that many kids will grow into adults who are in grave danger of lacking awareness of the full extent of their rights and duties as citizens, ranging from voting rights to the right they have to push their representatives on major issues.

In short, hyperbolic as this may sound to some, cutting Civics is a form of voter suppression and a form of weakening our democracy. After all, if kids aren’t taught about who their representatives are, how will they know to vote for (or against) their representatives when they are adults? If kids don’t know that they can write to their representatives, what will keep a representative from going against the will of their residents, whether that will is spoken or unspoken? If kids aren’t taught how to follow government affairs, how can they cast an informed ballot when they’re adults?

For those of us who think that voter suppression and disenfranchisement starts at the age of 18, when a citizen can vote, think again. It starts when kids are taught minimal or no Civics. However, my readers (or at least readers who live in the United States) can play a role in stopping this—if you ever hear your government, whether it be your school district, your city, your state, or your country, considering cuts to Civics programs, contact your representatives and make it known just how important Civics truly is.

Please note that I will not publish a post next Tuesday, as it will be the Tuesday after Labor Day.


[1] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/civics

[2] Apparently, Civics was among Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s proposed budget cuts. I don’t know if this proposal saw the light of day, but the fact that Civics is so frequently on the chopping block, even at the federal level, should alarm proponents of Civics education: https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/04/03/special-olympics-funding-outcry-is-over-its-been-crickets-over-some-devoss-other-proposed-education-budget-cuts-think-civics-history-arts/?noredirect=on

9 Replies to “Cutting Civics from School Curricula: An Unjust Move”

  1. Hello Brendan. The wealthy overlords want workers just educated enough to perform the jobs assigned to them, too poor to argue / resist, and unaware of their rights. No pesky back talk, no forming unions, and no state / federal oversight. Then keep them poor enough that they have little money to do anything but work and no money to ask for or to take vacation. Once the government is by the wealthy for the wealthy they can get rid of that worn out democracy thing. Hugs

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have to disagree with the premise of this blog. I speak as a retired Social Studies teacher of 33 years. Civics ( in NY we call it Participation-in-Government) is not being taken out of the curricula. In my case I made sure every senior student in my high school was registered to vote, every year for over 20 years. We filled out the forms right in class. And every year we read and discussed the entire US Constitution. It is true that this Trump administration wants to cut all education funding, but most funding for schools does not come from the feds. It comes from the state and local taxes. And Congress has a strong constituency (teachers, parents) to keep funding schools and programs.

    Almost all states have “civics” requirements for graduation. In many states civics is not only taught as a separate subject in the senior year, it is integrated throughout the curriculum from K-12. So kids get exposed regularly to citizenship and what it entails.

    I have linked a website that tracks civic education. You can even go to each state and see the requirements on a state by state basis. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the almost universal acceptance of the importance of civics. While the politicians may rail against public education, the fact is that teachers continue to quietly do the hard job of educating kids in all areas, including the area of civic responsibility. Don’t panic, this generation of students will be educated to take full responsibility… if they choose to.

    https://www.ecs.org/citizenship-education-policies-state-profiles/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First of all, what you did Joseph was absolutely commendable. What you did is something that should be done in every school, by every teacher. It sounds like you did well by your students.

      In terms of the cuts, yes, most states do have some sort of civics requirement, but it does not mean that the requirement is adequate. By most measurements, whether it be grade-level students taking civics exams or adults seeing how they would do on the U.S. Citizenship Exam (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/most-us-would-fail-u-s-citizenship-test-survey-finds-n918961), the U.S. seems to fall short with Civics.

      Furthermore, many places have been cutting back on their Social Studies curricula and/or funding, at the local and state level too–critical to note because Civics tends to be looped in with Social Studies. I can share some such articles on this if you’re interested. While I have no problem with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), Civics shouldn’t be neglected, either.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have looked at the link posted concerning the “Citizenship test” results. After a careful reading of the article I could not discover all the specific questions the test used. Also, how the test was administered. Did people sit down in a room and take these tests? Were they told ahead of time to prepare (After all, the US citizenship test preparation websites help immigrants prepare to take these tests). As someone who has used tests for many years you can select questions and set up circumstances to get the results you want. It would be helpful for this organization to share the methodology rather than simply give us their conclusions.

    That said. How important is it to know what Benjamin Franklin did? How important is it to know the specific year a document was written? How important is it to be able to recite all 13 original states? These trivial pursuit type questions might be fun for TV shows like Jeopardy. And entertaining. But they do not tell us much about government or politics or how to effectively participate in government. I am not diminishing the value of truly understanding historical data and trends, but I am suggesting that using very specific, fact based questions about trivial issues does not help us understand a person’s knowledge of government.

    I do not put much faith in these “Americans are ignorant” polls and tests. The reason is that they can be so easily manipulated. I like to see the entire circumstances before I make any conclusions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure how these tests were administered either, which was why I was extremely careful to not just pin it all down on one measurement but saying that “by most measurements” the U.S. seems to fall short on Civics. I think that the questions you raise, such as how important it is to know the specific year a document was written, are relevant. But there are questions that are relevant, such as who represents you, that too many of us fall short on. As of 2015, only 18% of people 18-24 (my age at the time this was taken) knew the names of their senators: https://www.politico.com/story/2015/02/poll-millennials-state-senators-114867. There are many many other measurements out there, but that’s one of them. And the measurements are rather concerning, because if many of us don’t know our representatives, how do we know to contact them?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s sooooo important to learn about politics from a young age and so I’m not pleased with the cutting measures you talk about here! It’s yet another area that parents have to take on with educating their kids or else the child misses out on this fundamental in life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely, we should learn about these things from a young age! I’ve been blessed to have parents who educated me about my representatives, among other things. Without that education from my parents, I might not be a voter.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Strongly agree. It is much more important to know your representatives and how to contact them. In the Participation in Government classes I used to have some kids actually go and volunteer with local representatives at the state level. I am happy to say that one of my former students ended up working as a volunteer in the White House. Civics or government classes should include not only a sound background in history and the Constitution, but also an active component. I don’t know about other states, but NY has had such a program for at least 30 years! Of course, no matter what a school offers, the students are the ones who must engage. (You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink!)

    Liked by 1 person

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