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As Independence Day Approaches, We Ask: Should Citizenship be a ‘Third C’ After College & Career?

As Independence Day Approaches, We Ask: Should Citizenship be a ‘Third C’ After College & Career?

As the fourth of July approaches, we begin to get excited about the things we know to expect from the summer’s biggest holiday. Time off from work, the enjoyment of watching colorful firework displays, and the delicious smell of hotdogs on the grill are just a few of the things we can expect to get excitement from.

But as we celebrate our country’s birthday and independence, we must ask ourselves: how much do we really know about the history of our great nation and the details of the journey that would lead to the formation of our 50 states?

According to many advocates for civic education in America, U.S. schools are simply not placing enough emphasis on students’ learning of U.S. history. They point to annual studies that show that U.S. students grow up to be uninformed adults; 50 percent of respondents on a recent survey did not know the number of U.S. Senators.

In 2014, the now-late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia lamented the state of civic education in the U.S. Unhappy with how little U.S. students are being taught about U.S. history, he said:

"I don't think we can be too cocky about America always being America. It's going to change unless the people have the same determination to preserve liberty that the framers had.”


Robert Pondiscio, executive director of CitizenshipFirst, a civic-education advocacy piggy-backed off Scalia’s comments and argued that not only should schools be preparing students for college and career, they should also be preparing students for citizenship. Citizenship, Pondiscio said, should be the third C.

Other advocates argue that a lack of quality civic education in schools means that students will not grow up to possess the skills necessary for “full participatory citizenship.”

This resonates especially true in today’s political climate as we gear up for the 2016 presidential election; the presumable nominees for the Democratic and Republican parties are two of the most polarizing figures to ever compete for the position of leading the nation.

But with such an important vote coming up, it’s relevant to note that voter turnout for young millennials has been perennially low. Many blame a lack of strong civic education on the reason why young adults simply don’t have the urge to go out and participate in democracy.

“...perhaps schools are largely to blame for the rather pathetic participation numbers; perhaps young adults’ ignorance of civic affairs helps explain why so few of them cast their votes. Perhaps that means change is possible,” The Atlantic said in 2015. 

The political climate in the U.S. is being directly compared to that of the one in England; just last week, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, but it wasn’t until after the votes were cast that residents from across the U.K. quickly asked Google questions like: “What is the EU” and “What will happen if we leave the EU?”

Year after year, U.S. students consecutively score low on the federal-government’s civics exam, yet most states have mere technical requirements for teaching students civics.

In 2013, a report co-authored by Stanford Graduate School of Education Professor William Damon argued for a total overhaul in U.S. civics education, describing a brand of “new civics” that should be taught to produce the most informed citizens possible.

"Democracy in practice is emotionally exhilarating and often conflict-ridden. Civic education should reflect this,” the report says, according to Stanford News.

”[T]he report contends...educators in the civics arena need to stop shying away from issues that may involve political and ideological controversy. It urges educators to get their hands dirty: Authentic engagement for students means experiencing the nitty-gritty of democracy and learning to address it constructively,” Stanford News said. 

We’d like to ask our readers what they think. Should civics education get a re-boot in K-12?

Take our poll below.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


Should civics education in K-12 get a re-boot?

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