A Lesson in Civics

The Patriotic School

Citizens of the United States have only one enemy: anything which infringes on our rights under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. When my mother came from German 1927 she became a U. S. citizen and had to take a test  and pass it on her knowledge of how our government is supposed to work and function under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. She took an oath to defend our country against all threats to those rights.

When I was in high school I took a Civics class to learn about being a citizen and what it means and how the founding fathers created this great country and how those rights were passed to us under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

What is going on now in schools to pass on the information I learned? A study by the Center for Information and Research on Civil Learning & Engagement at Tufts University has found that most states do not emphasize civic education, which includes learning about citizenship, government, law, current events and related topics.

In the current school year, 21 states require a state-designed social studies test — a significant decrease from 2001, when 34 states conducted regular assessments on social studies subjects. Only nine states require students to pass a social studies test to graduate from high school: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. Georgia’s will be phased out, but Maryland and Florida are slated to add high-stakes tests.

Although 39 states require at least one course in American government or civics, only eight states administer statewide, standardized tests specifically in civics/American government: California, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia. Of those, Ohio and Virginia are the only ones that require students to pass said test in order to graduate from high school.

The study also points out that since 2000, social studies assessments have shifted from a combination of multiple-choice and performance tasks — like essays — to almost exclusively multiple-choice exams.

“States are, to a greater extent, using multiple-choice only tests that focus primarily on memorizing information, rather than demonstrating civic skills,” the report states.

The shift away from civic education over the past decade can be partially attributed to federal policies like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. According to CIRCLE, recent research suggests states have shifted educational resources away from social studies toward subjects that appear on statewide assessments.

“Social studies courses such as history, civics, and economics provide students with the necessary civic skills and knowledge to be effective 21st century citizens,” the report concludes. “However, since the passage of No Child Left Behind, many states have shifted focus away from social studies and have dramatically reduced the number of social studies assessments.”

According to a poll conducted from June 22-July 2, 2012 by CIRCLE for the Youth Education Fund, 80 percent of the young voters surveyed were either unable to answer or were incorrect about their state’s early registration rules — suggesting a lack of emphasis given to current events and voting in state civics requirements.

The study comes on the heels of a Roper survey that indicated many college graduates are lacking in American History literacy. Two viral videos from earlier this year also suggested current students do not possess a basic understanding of current events and political figures.

The first gift we can give to our children starting now is the gift “How to be a Citizen”. We need to do a lot retraining on that front. We have let the education system dumb-down our children. How can the coming generations feel and express rights they have never been taught exist for them if they are not taught them? Instead of these rights they are taught so many things in school now that are devised by those who would usurp the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Stand up and be a Civics leader in your community. We can do this at family gatherings, in our churches, and at after school gatherings. How much fun would it be to devise a game for them to play using flash cards to see how many facts they know? Make it fun, make it entertaining, and PLEASE MAKE IT SOON.

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