American education, both K-12 and postsecondary, has long needed to reboot and reemphasize instruction in civics and citizenship. But that need has never been greater than today, as disunion, disruption and disbelief come to characterize so many elements of American life. Schools alone cannot cure society’s ills, but they could do far more to rectify people’s ignorance about the principles, practices and origins of our democratic republic and the responsibilities and rights of its citizens.

A number of worthy efforts to address this challenge are underway, including the development of new academic standards and curricula for the public schools. Among the most prominent of these are Educating for American Democracy, a curricular roadmap created by a bipartisan team of scholars and educators under the aegis of iCivics, and the “American Birthright” K-12 social studies standards created by the Civics Alliance under the aegis of the National Association of Scholars.

While the roadmap concentrates on inquiry and understanding, posing myriad questions about civics and history that students should grapple with, “American Birthright” is chockablock with content — names, dates, events and concepts that students should know. Each offers a framework on which to hang a complete K-12 curriculum, and I believe an amalgamation of their divergent approaches would tap into a nascent consensus among American parents about what their children should learn.

But instead of seeking common ground and striving for a unified approach to revitalizing this essential subject, some seem to prefer conflict. Call them culture warriors or not, they work at finding fault. From the right, for instance, the Civics Alliance slams the College Board’s excellent Advanced Placement course in civics and American government — developed with the National Constitution Center and anchored to Supreme Court decisions — because it includes an “action” component. The lead author of “American Birthright” gave Educating for American Democracy’s roadmap an F-plus with the accusation that it harbors “a very large amount of radical action civics.” He similarly denounces all forms of “bipartisan cooperation” in this realm because “the radicals conceive of ‘civics’ as a means to eliminate their political opponents from the public square.”

The roadmap has been also faulted by progressive academics, for leaving curriculum (and test) development to state and local sources, rather than propagating a national plan, and being too soft on social justice issues. And EAD is trying to fend off initiatives from the left that it sees as incompatible with the more-or-less centrist path it is trying to follow. For example, Biden administration’s priorities for a grant program meant to foster civics education, seek more attention to “racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives” than the consensus-minded roadmap supplies.

Civic ignorance is a silent killer, akin to high blood pressure, easy to ignore or take for granted even as it accompanies and hastens the onset of more serious maladies. Deteriorating norms of behavior, vulnerability to fake news and conspiracy theories, inability to compromise, isolation from civil society — all are associated with not knowing or caring much about the functions of government, the principles that underlie it or the historical saga that explains why we have the kind we do, where it has succeeded, where it has faltered, how it has changed.

Read the full article about civics education by Chester E. Finn, Jr. at The 74.