Central PA's LGBT News Source

Why we need to teach civics again

Supporters at President Trump's rally in Harrisburg, Pa. last April agreed on two things, reported AOL: Trump deserves high marks for his first 100 days in office, and House Speaker Paul Ryan needs to go.

"Ryan is a complete idiot," said rally-goer John Knepper speaking with AOL.com. "If I was Trump, boom, he'd be out of there in no time."

President Trump does not have the constitutional power to remove the Speaker of the House.

Pittsburgh native and Pulitzer Prize winning historian David McCullough reports that a college student recently asked him “besides Harry Truman and John Adams” which American presidents has he interviewed? I read his Truman biography having heard first hand stories from my father, David, who served as an elected delegate to the 1948 Democratic Convention held in Philadelphia. I also attended President Trump’s first visit to Pennsylvania.

A study by the Center for Information and Research on Civil Learning & Engagement at Tufts University has found that most states do not emphasize civic education, which includes learning about citizenship, government, law, current events and related topics. Only nine states require the teaching of civics.

In the current school year, 21 states require a state-designed social studies test — a significant decrease from 2001, when 34 states conducted regular assessments on social studies subjects. Only nine states require students to pass a social studies test to graduate from high school: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. Georgia’s will be phased out, but Maryland and Florida are slated to add high-stakes tests.

Although 39 states require at least one course in American government or civics, only eight states administer statewide, standardized tests specifically in civics/American government: California, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia. Of those, Ohio and Virginia are the only ones that require students to pass said test in order to graduate from high school.

The study also points out that since 2000, social studies assessments have shifted from a combination of multiple-choice and performance tasks — like essays — to almost exclusively multiple-choice exams.

“States are, to a greater extent, using multiple-choice only tests that focus primarily on memorizing information, rather than demonstrating civic skills,” the report states.

The shift away from civic education over the past decade can be partially attributed to federal policies like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. According to CIRCLE, recent research suggests states have shifted educational resources away from social studies toward subjects that appear on statewide assessments.