Recently, two retired and significant political leaders here in Florida addressed the issues facing civic education in the state. Don Gaetz, former Florida Senate President, writes on why civic education matters:
Recently I had coffee with an impressive high school junior and her mother. The young lady doesn’t share my politics but she spilled over with excitement to attend American Legion Girls State, a practical experience in how government works. She couldn’t wait to dive into mock legislating and she already knew the issues cold. She’s not looking for a career in politics but she wants to know how to make things better. Florida needs a few million like her.
Our young people need to be able to develop the civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions of citizenship. The focus is not molding little Democrats or little Republicans, little conservatives or little liberals. It is on, as Mr. Gaetz says, helping kids learn ‘how to make things better.’
On those same lines, legendary former Florida governor and Senator Bob Graham penned a piece advocating that Florida continue its positive work around civic education.
In 2014, the first year of testing, 61 percent of Florida students enrolled in seventh-grade civics scored at or above a level of proficiency. This compared favorably to the National Assessment of Educational Progress results, also known as the nation’s report card, in which only 23 percent of American eighth-grade students were deemed to be proficient in civics. NAEP is the most comparable assessment available; 2014 was the last year the exam was given. And things were even better in 2017 when 69 percent of Florida seventh-graders tested proficient or better. Students whose teachers used Joint Center instructional materials scored almost 25 percent higher than other students.
Senator Graham argues that civic education support is worth funding, and while the focus is on the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at the Lou Frey Institute, ultimately, Florida is a model for civic education, and to keep moving forward, we must pay attention and serve as advocates. And isn’t that the whole point of civic education? Advocate for our selves as citizens, as members of our communities, and as residents of this great and this great nation.
Please do consider reading the two articles from Gaetz and Graham, and if you are interested in supporting the work of the Lou Frey Institute and FJCC in Florida, please consider a donation or even just writing a letter. And thank you for being passionate and engaged members of the civic community!