The Connection between Civic and Economic Education

Article excerpt

A NEW REPORT SPONSORED BY THE CARNEGIE CORPORATION OF NEW YORK AND CIRCLE (CENTER FOR INFORMATION AND RESEARCH ON CIVIC LEARNING AND ENGAGEMENT) REVIEWS AND INTERPRETS RESEARCH ON SCHOOL-BASED CIVIC EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. FIFTY-SIX LEADING EXPERTS PROVIDED THE CONTENT OF THE REPORT, REVIEWED AND MODIFIED THE DRAFT OF IT, AND ENDORSED IT.

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FEDERAL LEGISLATION AND PROGRAMS IN SUPPORT OF CIVICS AND ECONOMICS IN THE CORE CURRICULUM OF SCHOOLS

Two pieces of recent legislation by the United States Congress have spurred the study of civics and economics: the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, passed in 1994, and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

One of the most important goals set forth in the Educate America Act is that "all students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter including civics and government and economics so that they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment."

To specify the nature of that "challenging subject matter," professional organizations have developed content standards. Content standards are explicit statements of what students should know and be able to do by the time they complete grades 4, 8, and 12. Content standards indicate the ways of thinking, working, communicating, reasoning, and investigating and delineate the most important and enduring ideas, concepts, issues, dilemmas, and knowledge essential to the disciplines that should be taught and learned in school.

The National Standards for Civics and Government were developed over 2 years by the Center for Civic Education with support from the federal government and the Pew Charitable Trusts. State-level departments of education have made use of the national civics standards by adopting, adapting, and modifying them to meet their own needs.

The National Content Standards in Economics were developed by the National Council on Economic Education in partnership with the National Association of Economic Educators Foundation for Teaching Economics. The National Content Standards in Economics specify several kinds of knowledge that students should have gained by the time they finish the 12th grade, which demonstrate connections between economics and civics/government (1997, p. xi).

The second significant piece of legislation pertaining to the teaching and learning of civics and economics is Public Law 107-110 enacted by the 107th Congress and signed by President George W. Bush. It is better known by its short title, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The overall purpose of this law is "to close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind."

Subpart 3 of the No Child Left Behind Act deals specifically with civic education, but it is attentive to the interrelationship of civic and economic education. Section 2342 of the act sets forth its legislative intent in this fashion:

It is the purpose of this subpart:

* to improve the quality of civics and students about the history and principles of the Constitution of the United States, including the Bill of Rights;

* to foster civic competence and responsibility; and

* to improve the quality of civic education and economic education through cooperative civic education and economic education exchange programs with emerging democracies.

CONNECTIONS BETWEEN CIVICS AND ECONOMICS iN STUDY OF THE CONSTITUTION

For more than 200 years, Americans have looked to their Constitution and Bill of Rights as the quintessential statements of their nation's values and of their political rights. They are less accustomed to thinking of the US Constitution as an economic document. Even so, economists point out: "Constitutions are economic documents as well as political documents. This is certainly true of the Constitution of the United States. …