Recently, my colleague Kelly S. Curtright, the president of the Oklahoma Council of the Social Studies, published an article on the value of education on citizenship. He makes the strong point that many times, we claim to be educating students to BE citizens rather than recognizing, first and foremost, that they ARE citizens already!
Recently, I received a typical email invitation from the National Assessment Governing Board to join them for a webinar to discuss The Nation’s Report Card: 2014 U.S. History, Geography, and Civics. One of the hook lines was this statement, “Having a firm understanding of these subjects is key to our students’ abilities to interpret national and international events and to be responsible citizens.”i I believe that the National Assessment Governing Board has it backwards. They should have asserted this instead, “Responsible citizens should have a firm understanding of History, Geography, and Civics so they can understand and interpret both national and international events.” They have the cart before the horse. Our students are already citizens and we must educate and equip them to become responsibly engaged citizens.
Indeed, this article is especially relevant considering the recent release of dispiriting NAEP data, which will no doubt lead to new calls for fact driven trivia knowledge based ‘civic’ education. As Curtright suggests, we are in danger of raising
up a generation of civic amnesiacs. If we do so, we will have failed in passing the torch of freedom to the next generation.
He includes a great deal of data that we probably already knew, but could certainly afford to share further, based on a relatively recent study out of Maryland:
-60% of responding states report less time being spent on Social Studies instruction in elementary school than in 2002.
-24% of responding states report less time for Social Studies in middle school.
-6% of responding states report less time for Social Studies in high school. Some states indicate that Social Studies is being combined with other subjects and, in one case, has been reduced to one semester.
-70% of Social Studies supervisors report that the amount of time allocated for high-school Social Studies has not changed, some indicate that Social Studies teachers are asked to provide instruction in reading and math to help students pass state tests in those subjects. In some cases, Social Studies electives are being dropped to provide remediation in reading and math.
But we knew all of this didn’t we? Kelly offers up some solutions for his own state to approach reforms in civic education, and I would venture to suggest that we here in Florida have already begun to implement similar reforms, thanks to the passage of the Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Civic Education Act.