ben diamond

FL Rep. Ben Diamond

As the title of this post says, democracy is not a spectator sport. In order to serve as active and knowledgeable members of the civic community of this great state and the broader representative democratic republic in which we live, it is necessary for those who are learning what it means to be a part of it all to actually have the chance to practice in their roles as ‘citizen apprentices.’

Recently, a bill was introduced in both chambers of the Florida Legislature, spearheaded by Rep. Ben Diamond, to create a sort of ‘civics literacy practicum’ that takes civics learning in this state to the next level.It is an exciting opportunity! So what exactly makes up this ‘civics literacy practicum’? Let’s take a look at key components of the bill, beginning with an overview of the House version:

Bill Summary

The Requirements of the Civic Literacy Practicum

In order to successfully complete a civic literacy practicum, students will have to:

  • identify a civic issue that impacts the community
  • research the issue from multiple perspectives
  • develop a plan for being involved with the issue
  • Create a portfolio to evaluate and reflect upon the experience and the outcomes or likely outcomes
    • include research, evidence, and a written plan of involvement

The practicum itself must be non-partisan, focus on addressing at least one community issue, involve multiple perspectives, and give the student an opportunity to engage in civil discourse with someone who holds a differing perspective on the issue.

Community Service Hours

The hours outside of classroom instruction that a student devotes to the nonpartisan civic literacy practicum to implement his or her plan of involvement may be counted toward meeting community service requirements for participation in the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program. School districts should include and accept nonpartisan civic literacy practicum activities and hours in requirements for academic awards,
especially those awards that currently include community service as a criterion or selection factor.

Freedom Schools

This is an interesting incentive for schools to encourage students to take part in this practicum: schools can be officially designated by the state as ‘Freedom Schools’. In order to be a Freedom School, schools must:

  • demonstrate that they have integrated proven practices of civic learning and engagement into the classroom
  • extend those same practices across the broader curriculum
  • engage in high quality professional learning community work around student achievement and best practice
  • a certain percentage of students graduating with a regular diploma, service learning hours, AND success in the civics literacy practicum.

Looking over the Senate version of the bill, the core of it is very simple, and I suspect that these will merge well in committee.

As a reminder, Rep. Diamond put forward a similiar bill last year. That one died in committee, in part because it put more expectations and mandates on schools and districts as far as course development and implementation, as well as some of issues with language choice. This bill, however, may see more success than we might think of otherwise. We here at LFI/FJCC certainly hope so!