Report: 'Fear Factor' Holding Back Civics. (Curriculum Update: The Latest Developments in Math, Science, Language Arts and Social Studies)

Article excerpt

3:1 That's the ratio of civics-related courses most students took in the 1960s compared to now. It's no wonder that Americans under age 25 are less likely to vote than both older Americans today and young people of the past.

The pressures of high-stakes testing and fallout from budget cuts in civics-related extracurricular programs are two factors working against educators in promoting civic engagement, according to The Civic Mission of Schools, a new report from Carnegie Corporation of New York and The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement.

Another obstacle is the fear of criticism and litigation that might result when teachers address controversial or political topics. Compared to testing and budget issues, this factor is a challenge that administrators have a bit more control over. To help squelch those fears, administrators can:

* Allow and encourage educators to discuss complex and/or current events and issues in the classroom. Work with teachers to develop general parameters within which these discussions can take place.

* Educate parents and community members about the important role of current events in helping students become educated and engaged citizens.

* Experiment with civics curricula that fits the community and its students. Strategies should build on or enhance already established curricula, programs and activities; involve partnerships with afterschool programs and local organizations; and emphasize the role each citizen plays in public affairs during a lifetime.

* Enact policies that reflect constitutional principles. When schools protect religious liberty and encourage freedom of expression by students, faculty and staff, they uphold freedom and democracy. …