Needs to be Rethought
Civics education has been sorely remiss in the US for decades. Only half of Americans can, for example, name all three branches of government! That is so basic a premise of our democracy that it speaks volumes about the depth and breadth of the problems we’re facing today.
There are excellent calls for revival—including an important initiative from Educating for American Democracy (EAD) offering a roadmap for effective civics education. Thank goodness.
There are limits on what average young minds can or want to absorb. The litany of names and dates that have constituted civics education for decades do little to help young learners understand the events and movements that have shaped our country, let alone instill in them a lifelong sense of civic responsibility. Therefore, offering too much, too soon – or simply more of the same — might just be counterproductive.
That said, if their curriculum starts in kindergarten, and they encounter fun, interesting human-size cases from history illuminating aspects of our democratic system, that might pique their interest and lead them to want more!
People, stories and ideas are what open a lot of minds.
Let us try giving them less BUT more interesting and exciting materiel.
For example—why are there 50 States? The answer, properly considered, entails another question: why aren’t there more or less? Working through that basic sort of issue starting with their daily lives might help start drawing them into the larger real world.
We too frequently start by having kids memorize lists of names, places and random facts.
If instead, we focused more on a few exciting people and events, the likelihood of capturing their interest and attention would rise sharply and carry kids deeper into subjects that could inspire their interests in knowing even more.
Of course, we are all different BUT we all love a good story, and the American experience is full of stories that shaped the past and influence, even now, the challenges and opportunities before us.
If we could get kids’ curiosity aroused even before 2nd grade, I believe the world ahead for that generation would be richly rewarded.