Why is it that America’s youth know so little about American civics and history? It may be due to the fact that education in civics and history has become a minor concern instead of a central purpose of education. Most schools in America do not incorporate civic education as an integral part of their curriculum. A study reveals that while every state notes the need for civic education, few incorporate it into the K-12 curriculum. In order to counter this, it is important that Americans recognize and consider the value of civic education as an important part of the K-12 curriculum. After all, civic education is essential to the well-being of American democracy.
Teaching civic education is a vital tool to promote democracy and should be considered vital in school curriculums.1 It should be taught explicitly and systematically from kindergarten through 12th grade, either in existing social studies courses or as a course of its own. It would give attention to content, skills, principles, and values required by citizens in order to fully participate in our democratic system.
Modern civic and history education began a century ago in the effort to Americanize immigrants who arrived on these shores, to ensure that they could assimilate and productively participate in American life. This initiative, which carried on for more than half a century, was sustained by the patriotic euphoria of two world wars and the circle-of-wagons mentality of the early years of the cold war.2 But one of the great ironies of America’s civic culture in this century is the fact that it has been greatly challenged by its success and freedoms. Social-cultural challenges and increasing immigrants to America from all corners of the globe have created a diverse society in many ways lacking knowledge about the core values on which our nation was founded. Renewing civic education is the challenge for civic educators today.
US civic and history education can be enhanced by:
- Asserting adequate supportive policy and curricular requirements. Today a student can graduate from High school without even having taken a course in American government.3
- Increasing adequate teacher preparedness in civics content and skills to pass to learners. Many teachers are not well-equipped with knowledge about US civics and history, thus negatively impacting learners.4
- Creating adequate outcomes by widespread knowledge of politics and government. Increasing knowledge among the public will help to eradicate apathy, alienation, and low levels of civic participation among citizens.5
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1Galston, W. (2002). Stephen Macedo, Diversity and Distrust: Civic Education in a Multicultural Democracy. ETHICS, 112(2), 386-391. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/324247
2PINSON, H. (2007). Inclusive Curriculum? Challenges to the Role of Civic Education in a Jewish and Democratic State. Curriculum Inquiry, 37(4), 351-382. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-873x.2007.00391.x
4Cavieres-Fernandez, E. (2014). – Teachers’ experiences and teaching civic engagement beyond self-regarding individualism. Teaching And Teacher Education, 42, 1-10. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2014.04.002
5American Freshman National Norms for Fall 1997