Once upon a time, long, long ago, civics education was a part of the curriculum for
American students. They were required to know the principals of American Democracy, the system of government, rights and responsibilities of being an American citizen, and geography, as well as what we would recognize today as a basic U.S. History class.
At that time, students also discussed current event freely from a Constitutional perspective. While that was the norm 50 or 60 years ago, after the end of the 1960s, the tide began to turn on civics education. It came to be seen as indoctrinating students, and a compromising of and individual’s rights.
Another contributing factor to the decline in civics education was the American quest for individuality. Toward the end of the 1960s and early 1970s, discussions with students on current events were becoming increasingly difficult. According to Professor Eric Lane of the Hoffstra Law School, “A discussion on topics such as the war in Vietnam, black power, women’s rights, affirmative action, and even presidential politics was likely, at least in the educator’s eyes, to create disruptions rather than understanding. Today however, with cuts in funding, No Child Left Behind, and Common Core curriculum, civics, let alone U.S. History gets lost in the testing shuffle.
What can be done? In these days of political accountability, in has become increasingly important for students to “know their civics”. It serves as a ruler by which we can measure the conduct of our elected officials.
It's time to give a little bit of that ‘Ol Time Civics back to the American students. Students should begin their civics instruction as soon as they begin reading. Even a youngster as young as 5 or 6 can understand the meaning of being a good citizen. Whether it is by throwing trash away and keeping parks tidy, or obeying a stop sign at a corner, if they can master video games, they can master good citizenship.
In 2014, Arizona became the first state to pass the Civics Education Initiative. The Civics Education Initiative requires high school students, as a condition of graduation, to take and pass the USCIS Citizenship Civics Test—the test all new immigrants must pass before becoming citizens.
It’s a step in the right direction. It only makes sense that if the people who weren't born in this country can pass the test, the citizens born here should pass it, too. It is the goal of the Civics Education Initiative to have all 50 states pass the education legislation by September 17, 2017, the 230 anniversary of the United States Constitution. What a way to celebrate!