Schools used to spend more time teaching children about the political process in class. But national education reform’s mandate for high-stakes testing has teachers and school administrators now placing more emphasis on math and language arts at the expense of political science, explains Charles Quigley of the Center for Civic Education.
Quigley says parents can start in kindergarten talking about fairness and justice, why we need positions of authority and rules, what makes a good rule, individual responsibility and rights and the common good.
“Start early and build through the school years, and you will end up with an enlightened citizenry,” Quigley said.
The Center for Civic Education provides lesson plans and discussion topics for parents and teachers.
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The value of kids and young people understanding the importance of voting is two-fold. Not only will we learn why and how to make informed decisions, we can in turn influence our parents and possibly even grandparents and other adults in our lives to vote.
One large study of ninth-grade students found that African-American students, Hispanic students, and those not planning to go to college received fewer of either content-centered or experience-centered civic learning opportunities than did White or college-bound students.
Studies of elementary school children show that rudimentary concepts of fairness, freedom, justice, and democracy exist among them. From grade two to grade eight their attitudes change from more personalized attitudes about government to more awareness of issues. By late elementary grades students exhibit a growing ability to take the perspectives of others and to consider community issues.
At 12th grade, students reported a surprising decline in study of the United States Constitution—both a decline from study in 2006 and different from the greater attention given to the Constitution as reported by eighth graders.
Even the study of elections and voting by seniors was sparse. That is surprising, because in many surveys youth have expressed a desire for more instruction in that area. They say that one of the reasons they don’t vote or participate in campaigns is that they don’t know enough.
Each generation must work to preserve the fundamental values and principles of its heritage; to work diligently to narrow the gap between the ideals of this nation and the reality of the daily lives of its people; and to more fully realize the potential of our constitutional, democratic republic. We can emerge from this civic recession, but to do so will require a full-scale national investment from every level of government and every sector of society to ensure that our citizens understand their government and participate fully in it.
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Read more at Civiced.org