The Civics Renewal Network’s mission is to bring attention to the importance of civics education in our nation. In our three-part series of Civics Advocacy Resources, we’re providing a sample of op-eds, editorials and articles that explain why an engaged and informed citizenry is vital to a functioning democracy. You will also find inspirational quotes from leading figures about why teaching our youngest citizens about their government is crucial.
We will continue to update these resources regularly. Contact the network at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, comments or suggestions.
“Is America Turning Into a Nation of Dunces?” Washington Times, Thomas L. Jipping, deputy director of the Heritage Foundation’s Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, April 15, 2019
What’s truly frightening is how this stunning unfamiliarity with the Constitution has bred contempt. If put to a vote today, only half of those surveyed said they would vote to adopt the Constitution. Even fewer believe that Congress should follow the Constitution. So much for the rule of law.
“Here’s why teaching the Constitution is important for students – and for society” The Philadelphia Inquirer, Jason L.S. Raia, executive vice president of the Freedoms Foundation. March 28, 2019
Constitutional issues impact our lives every day. And constitutional knowledge, especially in 2019, has a transformative power that allows young people to understand how they fit into the world around them — and the role civic responsibility plays in American society.
“Americans Aren’t Practicing Democracy Anymore: The Atlantic, Yoni Appelbaum, October 2018
As participation in civic life has dwindled, so has public faith in the country’s system of government.”
“What Your State Is Doing to Beef Up Civics Education” nprEd, Emily Cardinali, July 21, 2018
In their efforts to create informed, educated citizens, some states have invested in teacher training and increased curriculum standards for civics at the elementary through high school levels. Among the most common proposals have been more attention to media literacy and closer study of the Constitution, Bill of Rights and state founding documents.
“A Free People Needs To Understand Civics” Winston-Salem Journal, The Rev. Byron Williams, writer and host of the radio show “The Public Morality,” Dec. 1, 2018
Only an enlightened populace can be a free people — a people less likely to be engulfed by a post-truth world. A people who are not free cannot pursue liberty and equality in any meaningful way. Ignorance in a democracy impairs the nation. It is, therefore, a contrasting proposition to be a free and ignorant people.
“Happy Constitution Day, If You Can Keep It” Wall Street Journal, Judge Don Willett, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Sept. 16, 2018
The legendarily good-humored [Benjamin] Franklin would be dismayed that the generation of Americans with access to the most information is also the least informed. [James] Madison — Father of the Constitution – warned of this expressly: “A popular Government, without popular information … is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both.” But even a well-informed populace cannot guarantee good governance. Franklin cautioned, “if you can keep it,” because he knew that an engaged citizenry with its sleeves rolled up was the secret sauce. We the People – not We the Government, We the Judges or We the Subjects.
“American Is Waging a Civic War” The Hill, former Rep. Steve Israel (D., N.Y.), Aug. 8, 2018
Once we were a nation that joined together to build things. Now we are a nation in the throes of tearing things apart. When a society loses its common ground built up by agreed upon rules, shared civic virtues, and a basic awareness of how government works, it loses its cohesion. It not only drifts, it breaks into cultural tectonic plates, shifting and colliding with spectacular force, and creating an epochal new landscape.
“Better Civics Education in Schools? Yes, please” Seattle Times Editorial Board, April 9, 2018
Students who enter adulthood understanding government and their role as citizens are better equipped to participate in elections and hold officials accountable. Some data suggest that stronger civics education also corresponds with higher turnout among young voters.
“The Scariest Stat You’ll See All Day” Fox News, Chris Stirewalt, politics editor at Fox News, Sept. 18, 2017
It becomes increasingly clear that the central struggle for all people who love America and believe in its creed is to be instructional in nature. And if you care about the voices and rights of ordinary people, first they must be equipped to operate the magnificent machinery of a constitutional republic.
“Ignorant Nation” Townhall.com, Cal Thomas, Sept. 19, 2017
One can’t have a country if citizens are ignorant of its origins and purpose.
“We Urgently Need Civics Education” The Progressive, Christopher Dale, Dec. 19, 2017
A functioning democracy depends on an informed citizenry, including baseline knowledge of societal laws and institutions. Bafflingly, many schools no longer teach children how our government works, and what basic rights Americans are guaranteed.
“Civic Illiteracy in America” Harvard Political Review, Matthew Shaw, May 25, 2017
The repercussions of failing to convey basic civic knowledge to students are not always immediately understood, but they are rather dire. To [Michael] Poliakoff, the consequences of civic illiteracy are severe. “When our schools and our colleges and universities fail to set the kind of requirements that ensure that the students who leave their halls will be ready for engaged citizenship, they’re really letting the nation down.” In other words, we all suffer when civic education suffers.
Americans Know Nothing About Their Government; Here’s a Bold Way Schools Can Fix That. Washington Post Answer Sheet, Valerie Strauss, Sept. 27, 2016
What if, for one year, schools stopped focusing on computer science and obsessing about STEM? What if schools spent an entire year framing the entire curriculum (outside of physical education) around American civics so that students of every age could learn the history of the country in all of its complexities and how our government was formed and operates?
“Citizenship 101: Too Many Americans Are Ignorant of the Basics of Democracy” Los Angeles Times Editorial Board, Dec. 29, 2014
At a minimum, students in all grades need to be taught about the American political system and the structure of government at the federal, state and local levels. Documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution should be studied not just as literary or rhetorical artifacts but as examples of political philosophy and guides to civic engagement. And civics education (like all education) should encourage participation and creativity on the part of students.
“Between the Lines: Why Civic Education Matters” iCivics.org, Jerry Prina, government teacher, Oct. 2, 2014
So, ‘Why is civics education critical?’ We have too much to lose if the focus remains on only math, science and reading. Consider the opportunities that will be lost to teach students how to handle frustration and other emotions that are caused by disagreement during a guided class discussion. Think about the supervision and leadership that will not be leveraged by a professional civics educator on these topics. … Reading, science and math are critically important; they got us to the moon. However, please remember that civics was the reason we went.
“From Selfies to Service: The Power of Civic Engagement” Edutopia, Florina Rodov, July 9, 2014
All across America, young people are in crisis as they parade themselves on social media and chase superficial definitions of success. Simultaneously, Millennials’ civic engagement is lower than that of previous generations, according to Jean Twenge’s study in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, because they “are focusing more on money, image, and fame.” While they are more likely to volunteer during high school, it is to fulfill a graduation requirement rather than because of an intrinsic sense of civic duty. In order to save our youth, we should redefine achievement to include service, because it leads to connection, perspective and – most importantly – well-being.
“Americans’ Grasp of Civic Knowledge Shaky at Best, Study Finds” Boston Globe Editorial: October 7, 2014
The fundamentals of American civics are not dispensable frills. Citizens who don’t understand how laws are made or which powers the president wields can’t fully participate in our democracy. While the amount of information and commentary about public affairs has exploded, that’s no substitute for formal education about government and civic life.
“Do Our Children Know How to Be Citizens?” CNN, Robert Pondiscio, July 4, 2013
[W]e send kids to school not just to become employees and entrepreneurs, but citizens capable of wise and effective self-government in our democracy. … One way or another, schools will shape our children as citizens. The question is whether we want them to do so by accident or neglect, or by thinking carefully about the civic knowledge, skills and republic-keeping mindset our children will need to nurture and maintain our democracy in the 21st century and beyond.