Civic Education: The Problems, Advancements and a Solution “With more formal education comes a stronger interest in politics

, a greater concern with elections, greater confidence in playing one’s role as a citizen, and a deeper commitment to the norm of being a good citizen,” (Lewis-Beck et al., 102). Civic education should be important to every citizen in the United States; all citizens have a say in our democratic government. The problem is the poor experience with civic education today. People are not educated enough to participate in civic activities and a decrease of participation leads to the decrease of patriotism among citizens. There are people who are trying to reverse this problem by increasing civic education at the secondary and post-secondary levels. A nationwide civic education program that requires institutions to educate students about civics is a possible solution. This paper will outline the problems with civic education, the progress of civic education and a solution to improve civic education. Current Experience with Civic Education Most college students do not have a solid background of civic education. According to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI)1, over 14,000 college students were tested on various civic education subjects (ex. American history, government, foreign affairs, and market economics) and “the average freshman and average senior failed the exam,” (2010). Whether a student attends Harvard or a community college, his or her knowledge of civics is still low based on the ISI's information. Author Cal Thomas discussed the ISI’s study findings in his article. He noted—according to the ISI—that “America’s elite universities and colleges have failed to rise above a “D plus” on tests of basic knowledge about civics and American History,” (2007).

The Intercollegiate Institution (ISI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating programs and materials that educate college students and teachers about American liberty.


The nine states that have a mandate are Arkansas. secondary or post-secondary education level. “South Carolina has a statutory mandate that requires that all students enrolled in public high schools or colleges to undertake a 2 . According to Kedrowski. The general experience with civic education among American citizens is poor. South Carolina. Texas. How can a person demand rights if he or she does not even know what his or her rights are according to the Bill of Rights and Constitution? Who would want a president who does not have any civic knowledge? And why would someone go out and vote for anything pertaining to the well-being of the nation without some civic knowledge background? The answers to the questions are simple.Students should be able to answer a question such as “Which battle brought the American Revolution to an end?” That very question was among 1 of 60 multiple choice questions administered by the ISI to the 14. Utah. Author Karen M. legislative and judicial branches.000 college students across America. But the remaining forty-one states do not just dismiss civic education. many citizens try to make a difference by incorporating civic education into students’ lives whether it is at the elementary. Georgia. the nine states that have an education mandate have taken the first step in educating students. Kedrowski found that there are few states—about nine—that have a statewide civic education mandate (226). Advances with Civic Education On the bright side. for example. As mentioned above. and Wyoming (Kedrowski. Penn State students are required to take humanities courses and social science courses that include history and political science. Missouri. Illinois. 226). Civic education is more than history and understanding the executive. Kedrwoski wrote an article analyzing civic education by individual states. Oklahoma.

2 The Daily Record is a newspaper located in Jacksonville.S. “What did you learn in your ninth grade civics class. Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution.” (225). All I remember from my ninth grade class is the basic jobs of the branches and some of the amendments to the Constitution. requires its students to take civic education courses (225). citizens remember from high school civics classes. state and federal level. but how many students remember what they were taught? For example. if they had any. Federalist Papers. subtracting those who majored or minored in those subjects? The citizens of the United States have lost interest with the issues of today and want nothing to do with participation which decreases of the Constitution. In mid-March the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill that requires certain civic education courses to be taught (The Daily Record. and also the responsibilities of the government branches (The Daily Record. the Altoona Area School District requires ninth graders to complete "American Civics. There will be a standardized assessment phased into the civic education courses within the next few years to track progress according to The Daily Record2 (2010). Support for a Nationwide Civic Education Program A nationwide civic education program should be enacted for many reasons which will be stated below.” I would probably say that I do not remember much from that class. if someone asked. From personal experience with civic education. Do any citizens that attended college remember civic courses. Florida. 2010). 3 . and the Declaration of Independence. the structure of the government on a local. Some secondary and post-secondary institutes require their students to participate in civic education. Author George Gallup commented. 2010). where Kedrowski is employed." a yearlong course. Imagine what the rest of the U. Winthrop University. One course will include historical documents such as the Bill of Rights.

Obstacles will be the important things in peoples’ lives today such as Facebook.“Talk to the first hundred people whom you happen to meet in the street about many important issues of the day. and political campaigns. wrote the book The American Voter Revisited in 2008. Lewis-Beck et al. Author Eric R. so as citizens it is our duty to be educated and involved. 102). once educated. Smith said that if a person learns about politics he or she will want to learn more and become politically involved (192). There will always be obstacles to overcome in a program this large..” (334). If that statement is true. The authors state that “effective citizen participation depends on the operation of a nation’s educational system. especially if they have the freedom to be involved in most of those issues. family and friends according to the article in America’s New Democracy (118). Citizens that work together to improve their country promote patriotism.” (2006). volunteer community service. A. The article poses the question “Is it safe for voters to know this little in a country in which elections are so central to public policy making?” (118).S. The answer is no. Citizens should be aware of the issues that occur in their country. the rest of the U. America’s New Democracy has an article within chapter five that discusses whether the government should enact a civic education program. and chances are great that you will be struck by their lack of accurate or complete knowledge on these issues. which means that the government is run by the people. The nationwide civic education program would encourage more political involvement such as voting.” (Lewis-Beck et al. People need to understand civics in order to participate and understand important aspects of our government. iPhones. Americans fought for the right to have a democracy. population should have the same outcomes. But if 4 . N. “Why Does it Matter?” is an article by Roger Kimball in which he states that “students who demonstrated greater learning of America’s history and its institutions were more engaged in citizenship activities such as voting. Michael S.

Citizens should know American history not just to understand how our nation was started.more people take notice to the declining civic knowledge and want to make a change. Many problems could be dissolved by enacting a nationwide civic education program.S. People do not have to overrun their minds with civic knowledge. citizens to understand. but also to recognize how our rights and freedoms were established. but they should know enough to be involved. civic education is important for U. Understanding politics will increase the amount of civic activities that people are involved in and the level of patriotism. It will be a great day when people want to go to the polls and understand what they are voting for. they will be able to make a civic education program work. Not all people are ignorant of civic education which is demonstrated by high schools and colleges that teach civic education courses. History also teaches citizens what to do and what not to do by looking at failures and successes of our government in the past. 5 . In conclusion.

2008. A small article inside of the chapter addresses the question of enacting a nation-wide civics program. are not informed enough about American politics and lack the resources to make intelligent decisions such as voting and participation in politics. authors Morris P. 2008. Norton & Company. This source is relevant to my topic because it discusses not only the decline of civic educations. especially younger.Annotated Bibliography Gallup. Print. “Civic Education and Political Participation. 13 April 2010. George Gallup provides an essay in The Enduring Debate that supports the use of modern opinion polling. 27 March 2010. Public polls and how well they work depending on factors such as wording is discussed. The Enduring Debate: 5th edition. Statistics in the chapter prove my theory that Americans. Print. Morris P. but the reason that civic education is important. Fiorina.americancivicliteracy. This piece relates to topic of civic education by proving others believe that not all people are educated enough to understand every aspect of politics. is about common people. Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI). "Polling the Public. For example. But the most important section. Chapter five of America’s New Democracy is about the public opinion of Americans and how their public opinion is important. http://www. New York: W. This small section talks about how people are not intellectually informed. et al. Web. W.2 (2004): 263-266. New York: Logman. point out that most citizens are not politically informed. Galston provides a list of reasons that civic education is important. Galston presents possibilities for improving civic education. Galston. George.html 6 . Fiorina et al. All the information in the article backs up my reasons for deciding that civic education is declining and why there should be a nation-wide civic education program enacted..” 2010.jstor. Canon et al. Galston discusses efforts that have been made to improve civic education. In the chapter. but they have the common sense to make opinions. which applies to civic education. William A. eds. “The Shaping of the American Mind: The Diverging Influences of College Degree & Civic Learning on American Beliefs. http://www. He argues that elected officials can use the polling to discover how Americans think about current issues. Galston states that political participation will rise if younger people engage themselves in civic education.” Political Science and Politics 37." David Author William Galston discusses the importance that civic education has on political participation in his America’s New Democracy: 5th edition.

Kimball. 27 Nov. http://www. Karen M. but the majority of students do take civic courses in college. But the authors note that education creates an interest in politics which in return creates a better citizen. and other similar ideas. Kimball’s ideas summarize the importance of civic education. Higher enrollments mean a decline in general education hours. She wrote the article from the view point of a political scientist. They came across the question of civic education and a friend asked “why does it matter?” Kimball continued to discuss in his article about the statistics and surveys that show that college students do not know nearly anything about politics and civic education. During her research she discovered that nine states require their colleges to take specific courses that apply to civic education. the reasons for voter turnout.jstor. 7 . This article applies to my argument because Kedrowski makes the argument that college students end up taking less civic education courses in the future due to the push for higher enrollments. being one herself. He presents plenty of quotes from people that support civic education. Kedrowski focuses on post-secondary education.. et al.html In this article. Web. Print. “Why Does It Matter?” Real Clear Politics. This particular study adds a lot of backing to the argument of whether civic knowledge has declined. http://www. Web. “Civic education by Mandate: A State-by-State Analysis. The American Voter Revisited. Roger Kimball discussed a recent dinner conversation that he and his fellow friends had.realclearpolitics.2 (2003): 225-227. Rodger. discuss the stable trend of the American voter over the last decades. 27 March 2010. Lewis-Beck. The study includes statistics from the studies. How are people supposed to defend their rights and values if they do not even know what they are? That question is the basic idea quoted by Thomas Jefferson in Kimball’s article.The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) has conducted studies on college students and their knowledge of civic education. is modeled after the 1960’s The American Voter. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press. Lewis-Beck et al. 2006. The American Voter Revisited by Author Michael Kedrowski.” Political Science and Politics Author Karen M. Lewis-Beck et al. The study also includes percentages of students they surveyed on a number of questions pertaining to civic knowledge and higher learning. Most states do not enact a law that requires students to take specific courses. It gives actual numbers and statistics proving that freshmen and senior alike do not know American civics or history very well. 2008. Michael S. 27 March 2010. That idea plays a major factor in the importance of civic education. The authors discuss parties.

18 Sept. A. “Cheating College Students. Eric R.Tribune Media Services. Inc. N. This article shines some light on my topic by showing that slowly there are people taking a stand to teach civic education to the young people of This article is relevant to my argument by backing my opinion that a nation-wide civic education should be enacted.jaxdailyrecord. 19 March 2010. 30 March 2010.html Cal Thomas discusses in his article “Cheating College Students. “Civics Bill Passes House. 27 March 2010. there are efforts being made to education people. Staff.” The Daily Record.Smith. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1989. 8 . The Unchanging American Voter. N. author Eric R. The ISI revealed that the highest ranged schools had the lowest rankings on basic tests of historical and civic knowledge. He discusses their lack of knowledge of politics and their lack of political involvement in civic duties such as” Real Clear Politics.” that college students today are not getting the required civics education they need. A. Even though civic education has declined and there should be a nation-wide civic education program enacted. 2007.. Thomas. And eventually the state will provide yearly test to measure improvements. http://www. Bailey. Thomas notes the importance of civic education in the article. Documents like the Constitution and Bill of Rights will also be studied. Press. Smith comments that people are not and will not become politically involved unless they are educated or they must become politically involved to learn more about politics. 2010 in Florida. Web. Web. state. The Florida House of Representatives passed a bill that requires all students to take one semester of civic education.php?Story_id=530540&searchtext=civics %20bill%20passes%20house The news article I chose occurred on March 19. On the subject of civic education. and federal view point. In The Unchanging American Voter. He makes a number of references to the authors of the book The Changing American Voter. The course will consist of many things such as the functioning of government on a local. He provides details about a study conducted by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s (ISI). Smith discusses American citizens as voters. and compares the flaws of what they had wrote to what he has discovered. Cal. http://www.

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