Giving Compass' Take:
- Schools and educators must take more intentional steps to provide high-quality civics education classes, especially before an election year.
- What impact do young people have on the future of our democracy? How can donors invest in civics education and youth advocacy?
- Read how philanthropy can support civic learning.
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Right now, millions of students around the country are comfortably in their seats for the 2023-24 school year. Meanwhile, almost 40 percent of the American public still contest the results of a free and fair election, and with the 2024 federal election around the corner, political polarization in the United States seems neverending, leaving democracy in an arguably fragile state.
Fortunately, in light of democracy’s fragility, there has been a steady increase in initiatives from federal and state governments to incorporate civics education in K-12 classrooms. In 2020, California adopted a State Seal of Civic Engagement that high school students can earn upon graduation. As of 2022, 38 states required a semester of civics education in high school; that same year, the federal government increased spending on “American History and Civics” fourfold. This year, in Indiana, sixth graders will take an inaugural civics course in the spring semester.
These are all great steps in the right direction, but I believe there is still a lack of respect for the importance of history and civics education. Despite living in incredibly tense times where we can’t even talk about history without fomenting a fight — or worse, inciting a civil war — we have not adequately discussed how the history classroom can create a citizenry that is stronger and more thoughtful and engaged. If we want to truly equip our students to understand and navigate the political environment that exists today, we have to think about how we teach the discipline of history more broadly.
When teachers, administrators, and legislators talk about history education, we must consider it an exercise in civics. Typically, civics is synonymous with learning about overtly political topics such as government structure and voting, but what if good citizenship goes beyond our nation’s history and political processes? To reach every student in the U.S., we must reprioritize history education as a whole, not just in parts.
Good history education empowers students to actively engage with the past they study, rather than being passive receivers of historical narratives. When students learn to ask deep questions, analyze texts and construct evidence-based arguments, they are equipped with skills that reach far beyond a history classroom. Thinking historically is at the root of those skills.
Read the full article about quality civics education by Zachary Cote at EdSurge.