There has been a dip in the practice of teaching civics, the effect of which can be seen when examining the classroom and beyond. Alternatively, there’s been a shift toward STEM education.
A commitment to civic education isn’t merely an effort to encourage students to press their right hands over their hearts during the pledge of allegiance or having them read and momentarily discuss the preamble. Civic education the manageable act of helping young people to understand the role that civics plays in developing employable skills, personal responsibility, and community contribution.
Has this changed? Are we now more interested in where young students will find success as contributors to the U.S. workforce?
Today, we know that there’s a sharp focus on pushing kids to enter the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, which is essential. There’s a distinct benefit to helping young people grow this ambitions, particularly as it will lead to scientific or technological advancements. However, it’s possible that the public education has leaned a bit too far from teaching monumental moments in history: the incredible battles, civil rights outcries, and the game-changing speeches.
Certainly, the public school system itself has changed. Until the 18th century, the public school system only served low-income and middle-income families, while wealthier students were tutored at home. The American Revolution improved this. It’s believed that the founding fathers shared an opinion that citizens needed to be educated to service the numerous functions of the government.
Thus, state-supported education was retooled and asked to teach literacy and arithmetic, but they also had to explain history that could be a basis of understanding for students to be gainful contributors to the new republic. Education about leadership and government would also be necessary because American would need to understand more about their representatives, local government, and their constitutional rights. In 1918, Mississippi became the last state to enact compulsory education.
Public education means that American students were gaining the tools to be workers and impactful community members. Mandates, as they were, were taken very seriously when state-funded public education first became widespread, and rhetoric looked very different from what it is today.
Because Americans are being outpaced by others when it comes to STEM it’s important that we dedicate resources toward these subjects. It is, however, still significant that we remember to offer young people the well-intentioned insight that civic literacy will provide. Civic understanding means that young people will better understand their role in the governmental structure, as well as a threat the civic health is essential for overall economic health.
However, can we adjust, reintroduce the principles of civics, and help young people to care about their collective power when it comes to democratic tradition?