The battle for America’s future and stronger democratic ideals isn’t being waged in Washington, D.C., it’s being lost inside our classrooms.
This year, the most high-profile political contests in America involved names that were unrecognizable outside of local communities.
School board elections witnessed a dramatic increase in voter interest and participation. Parents stepped up for a number of reasons, not the least of which was because they were tired of woke culturalism seeping into the classrooms of their children.
Nobody believes American history is perfect, but that doesn’t mean we should be ashamed of who we are. We can be imperfect and yet also exceptional. That’s a powerful lesson for kids across America.
Where we have routinely fallen short in our classrooms, however, has been with curriculum that fails to account for civic-minded instruction and retention.
Instead of teaching children to feel sorry for America, it’s long past time for lesson plans to reflect the virtues of our nation, especially when it comes to democracy and capitalism. We don’t have time to waste.
The University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center found in September 2021 that 44 percent of U.S. adults could not name all three branches of government; one-in-five couldn’t name any.
Asked who has final responsibility for determining whether an act by the president is constitutional if the president and the U.S. Supreme Court disagree – the president, Congress, or the court – just half of Americans (51%) correctly said the Supreme Court. That was unchanged from 2020.
In the same survey, nearly six-in-10 (59 percent) respondents said they had taken a civics course in high school that focused on the Constitution or judicial system.
Half (48 percent) said they had taken a college course that focused on the U.S. system of government and the Constitution.
While the 2020 election brought a renewed interest in engagement among younger Americans, only 24 percent of eighth graders performed at or above the proficient level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress civics exam.
Overall, achievement levels have been flat since 1998.
Declining public knowledge of civics has captured the attention of former presidents, statesmen and stateswomen alike. However, few have dedicated more time and effort to address the issue than retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
The first female justice of the Supreme Court launched the effort that became iCivics short after stepping down from the Court.
Initially, the program’s curriculum focused solely on the judicial branch, but over time lesson plans expanded to include student gameplay and immersive experiences in the study of U.S. History, Congress, the Presidency and our founding documents.
With all the attention the STEM fields are getting today (and rightfully so!), it’s critically important that we not lose sight of the need to provide formal instruction in government, history, capitalism and democracy that involves more than mere memorization of facts and procedures.
There is perhaps no greater lesson learned for children, than when they can apply the facts they learn in a classroom in the real world.
Enhanced instruction in civics needs to be the focus of public leaders, parents and the new wave of school board members that were elected this fall.
The future of our nation depends upon it.
Nancy Brinker is a former U.S. Ambassador and U.S. Chief of Protocol, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and founder of Susan G. Komen and The Promise Fund of Florida. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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