#Civics is Back

In many tangible ways, the very

Future of America

depends on our fidelity in delivering high quality Civics lessons to our kids...

Can we leave the task of civics education to the social media our students access daily?



It's easy to take democracy for granted. If you live in America. We are not Egypt, Libya, Syria or Iraq. A look at the unstable authoritarianism that exists in those places reminds us of why our democracy has been called the last, best hope on earth.

But even here, democracy is not guaranteed. Dr. Francis Fukiyama of Stanford University, in a lecture promoting his two volume study of all the governments in the history of time, Political Order and Political Decay, said the greatest threat to America is political instability. To be sure, there are signs of an increasing fracture of our democratic fabric in the current highly polarized political landscape. Political instability is much less likely in any country where Civics education is robust, where democratic dispositions and practices are modeled and taught.

The teaching of Civics in America at this moment, when Presidential candidates refuse to shake hands before debating, is a holy calling, a timely duty!

The state of Illinois passed a law that requires a Civics or Government course for high school graduation. But not just any Civics or Government class. Diane Rado, the Chicago Tribune reporter called this law the "most prescriptive part of the Illinois Education Code". Wow. Why? Because the law requires that the course contain these three elements, practices which the research shows lead to more highly engaged students in the future:

  1. Service Learning. Students must get outside the classroom, examine the world around them, and devise ways to solve problems and meet community needs. Every teacher knows that successfully assigning projects like this is much more challenging, delicate and difficult than normal direct teaching.
  2. The Discussion of Current and Controversial Issues. By its very nature this Illinois prescription is controversial. Some parents or districts may want to avoid controversies that could stir up wrong emotions. That's all the more reason for this prescription. Public schools should be places where kids are taught about civility and civil discourse. They should be taught to be able to dispassionately engage in discussions where other speakers have radically different ideas than their own. Research such as that of Walter Parker and Dr. Diana Hess has shown the powerful effects on future civic engagement when students are exposed to the discussion of current and controversial issues under the guidance of a skilled teacher.
  3. Simulations of Democratic Processes. The students who now take Civics in Illinois will become much more than students. In simulations they will become legislators, journalists, President, lawyers, campaign managers and editors. You know that students learn best from things they experience, so fire up Congressional simulations, Supreme Court moot courts, and Mock Presidential elections. Social Studies Simulations