The Civics Renewal Network’s mission is to bring attention to the importance of civics education in our nation. We provide these civics advocacy resources for teachers, parents and members of the public who are similarly concerned about the state of civics education in our schools. Included in these resources, you will find research and studies that make a powerful case for strengthening civics education as well as op-eds, editorials and articles here that explain why an engaged and informed citizenry is vital to a functioning democracy. These are excellent resources for advocates of civics education. You will also find inspirational quotes from leading figures about why teaching our youngest citizens about their government is crucial.

We also are sharing a how-to toolkit from the Constitutional Rights Foundation, a CRN partner, for those interested in becoming an advocate for civics education in their schools and communities. The toolkit offers templates for creating a petition; writing a letter to the editor; use of social media; hosting a panel discussion; and much more.

We will continue to update these resources regularly. Contact the network at info@civicsrenewalnetwork.org with any questions, comments or suggestions.

ARTICLES

“Civics Education Helps Form Young Voters and Activists.” The Atlantic, Alia Wong, Oct. 5, 2018

Some observers emphasize that to really ensure that kids learn the importance of civics, schools should start lessons much earlier. Ideally, says Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg of Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, civic engagement should inspire students to translate knowledge about government and policy making into action—from volunteering and community organizing to lobbying and voting. For kids to really understand that connection, advocates say civics learning should start at a young age.

“The State of Civics Education.” Center for American Progress, Sarah Shapiro and Catherine Brown, Feb. 21, 2018

Without an understanding of the structure of government; rights and responsibilities; and methods of public engagement, civic literacy and voter apathy will continue to plague American democracy. Educators and schools have a unique opportunity and responsibility to ensure that young people become engaged and knowledgeable citizens.

“The Challenges Facing Civics Education.” Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Daedalus, Spring 2013

This essay explores the value and state of civics education in the United States and identifies five challenges facing those seeking to improve its quality and accessibility: 1) ensuring that the quality of civics education is high is not a state or federal priority; 2) social studies textbooks do not facilitate the development of needed civic skills; 3) upper-income students are better served by our schools than are lower-income individuals; 4) cutbacks in funds available to schools make implementing changes in civics education difficult; and 5) reform efforts are complicated by the fact that civics education has become a pawn in a polarized debate among partisans.

What Does Civics Education Look Like in America?Elizabeth Mann Levesque, Brookings Institution, July 23, 2018

A surge of political activism by young people demonstrates a high capacity for political engagement among students. Yet at the same time, real concerns persist about the extent to which schools are equipping all students with the skills they need to be effective citizens, and whether some students will leave school more prepared than others. In this context, the 2018 Brown Center Report on American Education focuses on the state of civics education in the U.S. Chapter 2 examines how states have incorporated certain practices into their requirements for civics education and uses survey data to assess whether student experiences reflect these practices. The data highlight how critical parts of a civics education, namely participatory elements and community engagement, are often missing from state requirements, whereas discussion and knowledge-building components appear more common.

“National Survey Finds Just 1 in 3 Americans Would Pass Citizenship Test.” Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, Oct. 3, 2018

Only one in three Americans (36 percent) can actually pass a multiple choice test consisting of items taken from the U.S. Citizenship Test, which has a passing score of 60, according to a national survey released today by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.
Only 13 percent of those surveyed knew when the U.S. Constitution was ratified, even on a multiple-choice exam similar to the citizenship exam, with most incorrectly thinking it occurred in 1776. More than half of respondents (60 percent) didn’t know which countries the United States fought in World War II. And despite the recent media spotlight on the U.S. Supreme Court, 57 percent of those surveyed did not know how many Justices actually serve on the nation’s highest court.

ABA Survey of Civic Literacy, 2019

Less than half of the American public knows that John Roberts is chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a new national poll conducted by the American Bar Association, while almost one-quarter think it is Ruth Bader Ginsburg and 16 percent believe it is Clarence Thomas.The nationally representative poll of 1,000 members of the U.S. public found troubling gaps in their knowledge of American history and government, as well as constitutional rights. One in 10 think the Declaration of Independence freed slaves in the Confederate states, and almost 1 in 5 believe the first 10 amendments of the U.S. Constitution are called the Declaration of Independence instead of the Bill of Rights.PDK Poll, August 2019

Should students study civics? A nearly unanimous 97% of Americans say public schools should be teaching civics, including 70% saying it should be required.

RESEARCH

“Classroom and School Predictors of Civic Engagement Among Black and Latino Middle School Youth.” Child Development, July 2017

This study used short-term longitudinal data to examine the contributions of democratic teaching practices (e.g., the Developmental Designs approach) and equitable school climate to civic engagement attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors among 515 Black and Latino middle school students (47.9% male). Concurrent experiences of democratic homeroom and classroom practices, and equitable school climate were associated with higher scores on each civic engagement component. The relation between classroom practices and civic attitudes was more robust when school climate was seen as more equitable. Longitudinally, homeroom practices and equitable school climate predicted higher civic attitudes 1 year later. Discussion focuses on civic attitudes and future research on school experiences that support civic engagement among youth of color.

“Impacts of Adolescent and Young Adult Civic Engagement on Health and Socioeconomic Status in Adulthood.” Child Development, January 2018

The present study examines links between civic engagement (voting, volunteering, and activism) during late adolescence and early adulthood, and socioeconomic status and mental and physical health in adulthood. Using nationally representative data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, a propensity score matching approach is used to rigorously estimate how civic engagement is associated with outcomes among 9,471 adolescents and young adults (baseline Mage = 15.9). All forms of civic engagement are positively associated with subsequent income and education level. Volunteering and voting are favorably associated with subsequent mental health and health behaviors, and activism is associated with more health‐risk behaviors and not associated with mental health. Civic engagement is not associated with physical health.

“The Democratic Disconnect.” Journal of Democracy, July 2016

The citizens of wealthy, established democracies are less satisfied with their governments than they have been at any time since opinion polling began. Most scholars have interpreted this as a sign of dissatisfaction with particular governments rather than with the political system as a whole. Drawing on recent public opinion data, we suggest that this optimistic interpretation is no longer plausible. Across a wide sample of countries in North America and Western Europe, citizens of mature democracies have become markedly less satisfied with their form of government and surprisingly open to nondemocratic alternatives. A serious democratic disconnect has emerged. If it widens even further, it may begin to challenge the stability of seemingly consolidated democracies.

“White Paper: The Republic is (Still) at Risk – And Civics is Part of the Solution.” Peter Levine and Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, CivXNow.org

When distrust for major institutions combines with distrust for other citizens, the result is declining support for democracy itself. Young adults are no exception: in January 2017, 35% of Millennials said they were losing faith in American democracy, and just 25% were confident in the democratic system.

“Americans’ Civics Knowledge Increases But Still Has a Long Way to Go.” Annenberg Public Policy Center Civics Knowledge Survey, 2019

The past few years have seen contention between Congress and the president over budgets and immigration, disputes over the limits of executive power, contested confirmation hearings for two Supreme Court justices, and lawsuits involving members of Congress and the president. The good news is that amid all this, the American public knows more about the Constitution and the separation of powers than in the recent past. On various topics, the latest Annenberg civics knowledge survey finds more U.S. adults responding correctly to questions about civics and constitutional rights. Although many still show a surprising lack of knowledge about the Constitution, there are signs of improvement.

“Let’s Go There: Making a Case for Race, Ethnicity, and a Lived Civics Approach to Civic Education” Cathy Cohen, Joseph Kahne, Jessica Marshall, GenForward at the University of Chicago

While young people of color are raising their voices, getting involved with groups in their communities, and taking to the streets to advance a political agenda meant to address and improve their lives, it is not clear that current ap-proaches to teaching civics in urban classrooms adequately or effectively center or engage these same young people.

“Civic Education.” Helen Haste, Harvard University, Mario Carretero, Autonoma University of Madred, Spain, Angela Bermudez, Deusto University, Bilbao, Spain

In this chapter we discuss the contributions of educational and developmental psychology to this renewed understanding of civic education, in particular, to redefining key learning processes, curriculum orientations in formal and informal learning environments, and different pathways to development. To conclude, we
consider three examples of emerging research and practice that relate to “new civics”: Civic education through new media, student engagement in critical deliberation of controversial issues, and how historical narratives and concepts are used in the construction of civic identity.

Concept of Civic Deserts: https://tischcollege.tufts.edu/research/civic-deserts-americas-civic-health-challenge
Guardian of Democracy: The Civic Mission of Schools

Guardian of Democracy: The Civic Mission of Schools is an urgent call for action to restore the historic civic mission of our nation’s schools. This new report provides research-based evidence of the decline in civic learning in American schools and presents six proven practices that should be at the heart of every school’s approach to civic learning. It also provides recommendations for education policymakers to ensure every student acquires the civic skills and knowledge needed for an informed, engaged citizenry.

“The Marginalization of Social Studies”– Council of Chief State School Officers, Nov. 16, 2018

Informational graphic

2018 Brown Center Report on American Education

The 2018 edition focuses on the state of social studies and civics education in U.S. schools. Like previous editions, which were authored by Tom Loveless, the report comprises three studies: The first chapter examines student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress; the second examines state policy related to civics education; and the third provides a look at the nation’s social studies teachers.

Civic Deserts: America’s Civic Health Challenge. Matthew N. Atwell, John Bridgeland, and Peter Levine

“Civic Deserts” — communities without opportunities for civic engagement — are increasingly common in the United States. The continued decline in a wide range of important indicators of civic health and connectivity threatens our prosperity, safety, and democracy. Based on data from the Understanding America Study, which is maintained by the Center for Economic and Social Research at the University of Southern California (USC), we report here for the first time that just 28 percent of Americans say that they belong to any group that has leaders whom they consider both accountable and inclusive. This percentage does not vary dramatically among demographic groups, although Latino citizens, people without college backgrounds, and people under 30 lag behind the national average on this measure by 6 to 7 percentage points. This lack of group membership continues a trend previously seen.

Teens and Elections. CIRCLE, Tufts University, Jan. 23, 2018

With the 2018 elections now less than a year away, political parties, journalists, and other observers are increasingly turning their attention not just to how people will vote in the midterms, but to how many will cast a ballot. Turnout in off-year elections has historically been much lower than in presidential years across all age groups, but especially among youth; in 2014, we calculated that only one-fifth of young people (ages 18-29) participated in that year’s midterm elections—the lowest youth turnout ever recorded by the Census.

While many cite this downward trend in order to dismiss young people as apathetic, the research tells us that there is a deeper story. Voting is like any other habit: it must be taught, facilitated, and nurtured through concrete opportunities and through a culture that encourages and celebrates political participation. And like most habits, the earlier one develops it, the easier it is to keep at it later in life. Research has shown that young people who cast a ballot earlier in life are more likely to continue voting in the years and decades to come.

CivXNow System Map

A map of issues related to civic education in the United States, it displays the input of more than 7,000 people who completed surveys for CivXNow. In the first survey, respondents generated a list of issues relevant to civics. In the second survey, they identified connections among these issues.