2020 revealed large gaps in our society. And as we have already covered on this blog, one of those needs was for comprehensive social studies and civics education. I’m clearly not the only one who thought that as bills requiring schools to teach civics are making their way through multiple statehouses around the country right now. That includes Indiana. This seems rather odd to some. Why do we need a bill or a mandate for schools to teach students about how our country works? Isn’t that something that schools already do? Even if it isn’t, does it need to be made into law?
- Schools are not doing it universally.
As it currently stands, many schools are not offering comprehensive civics education. This is apparent by any metric you use, be it the few standardized tests that evaluate such things or even the anecdotal evidence of grown ups not understanding the electoral college. It is clear people aren’t learning civics.
- If not mandated, many schools will cut it.
Schools are going allocate their resources in a way that helps them satisfy their needs. In the eyes of most, that means spending as much time on math and literacy as possible. That doesn’t mean they won’t spend any time on it but if push comes to shove it will be civics that loses the time. You can hardly blame them; that is where the points are, and that is where the consequences are. A government mandate would raise the profile of the subject matter and schools would adjust.
- It has become partisan and controversial to some.
Another barrier to schools teaching civics is the fact that it has recently become partisan. Depending on what is being taught while who is in office, parents perceive the content as partisan and will often complain to school leadership. They probably think that because they were never given a quality civics education themselves. A mandate makes it less controversial to parents.
- Citizens need it for our country to function.
Our constitution literally presupposes that our citizens are informed and educated about the political process. Our country doesn’t work the way it was meant to when they aren’t. For that reason alone, it is important that our education system gives them the tools they need. This is especially the case when that system is government funded.
In a perfect world, we would not need to mandate this. Schools would teach it because they thought it was important. Parents would not complain. Our union would work the way the founders intended. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world, and we need to take the necessary steps towards making a nation of informed citizens a reality.
This doesn’t mean that every bill dealing with civics making its way through legislatures needs to be passed. Bills are dense documents that need to be flushed out, and we all know how it easy it is to slip something silly in the fine print of a law. But the spirt of the push is valid: Schools should not have the option of avoiding civics.