Wednesday, February 18, 2015

AV#119 - Balance - Part 2 - Civic Education -

                                                      Peter Huidekoper, Jr. -Happy Constitution Day - Sept. 17, 2014

Balance is again my larger theme. Let’s make sure we offer Colorado students a well-rounded, rich curriculum—not one narrowed by “what gets tested.” AV#118 addressed classroom discussion, and quoted from Neil Postman on “The American Experiment.” AV#119 builds on that: the topic is civic education.

A conundrum for many: how do we argue for more _______ (fill in in the blank with whatever you think schools aren’t teaching enough: civics, art, character education, financial literacy, yoga!) without asking for more tests on these subjects, as we sense the abundance of tests ALREADY in place might be exactly what crowds out the teaching of ______ (whatever you think schools aren’t teaching enough)?

The Colorado State Board of Education’s stated vision is: “All children in Colorado will become educated and productive citizens;” its mission: “to provide all of Colorado’s children equal access to quality, thorough, uniform, well-rounded educational opportunities in a safe and civil learning environment” (italics mine). It is in our schools, then, that our future citizens should explore and understand a wide range of subjects, such as, let’s say: what is citizenship. But when we are told the only way to ensure that we teach x, y, or z is to add another state test, we back off and say, Yikes! That’s not what I had in mind!

This newsletter is not an attempt to say WE NEED MORE TESTING IN CIVICS! 

After all, just this year the state of Colorado chose to add (this was not, I repeat not, a Washington conspiracy!) social studies assessments across the state. This past spring 4th and 7th graders took part in the first state-wide tests in this discipline; later this fall 12th graders will do so as well.  The move, supported by the State Board of Education and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (, made sense to many of us, given the concern that, if we only measure reading, writing, math, and science, schools will keep giving short shrift to history, geography, and civics.

So this is a positive step, as was the bipartisan support back in 2003, Senate Bill 36, requiring completion of a civics course for graduation.[1]  And yet today, eleven years later, can we be satisfied with what most Colorado students are expected to learn about our government and the meaning of citizenship? How to ask for more—in a local control state?   No answers here, but I will gladly take suggestions. My purpose here is simply to offer 10 points that make the case that civics should be an essential part of the K-12 curriculum in our schools—in the hope this will encourage others to push for much-needed change.      
1.      “Student Mastery of Civics Ed Goes Untested,” Education Week, Oct. 17, 2012

This article captured key points from a recent report by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). “… 39 (states) require high school students to take at least one course in U.S. government and civics to graduate; all but two, Colorado and Iowa, require social studies coursework.” (Our state does require a course on civics for graduation, but has no “social studies requirements.”) It continued:

… only eight states have standardized tests specifically in civics education at the high school level, and Ohio and Virginia alone require students to pass them to graduate…. It also says only 21 states mandate that students take a social studies test—the broader discipline that includes history, geography, and civics—and only nine require that they pass it to earn a diploma. That number is down from 34 states that conducted regular assessments in 2001.

“I think the state of civics and citizenship education has been in disrepair for the past decade, jammed into the corner of the attic like an old bicycle with a flat tire.”
Rick Hess, resident scholar and director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute;
co-author of the new book Making Civics Count.
And most of those tests, according to the findings, are weakly linked to state standards and do not test deeper knowledge of the subject matter at hand.  The findings help document what many in education have been saying since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act more than a decade ago. An emphasis on reading and mathematics, driven by the law’s testing and accountability requirements, has cut into the time and attention devoted to some of the other subjects.
“I think in a big, deep way, civics and preparation for citizenship has been left out by policymakers, who think in terms of preparation for college and for a difficult labor market but don’t think of civics as part of this,” said Peter Levine, the executive director of CIRCLE at Tufts University.
(Education Week, Oct. 17, 2012, p. 18 -

2.  The National Center for Learning and Civic Engagement (NCLCE) here at the Denver-based Education Commission of the States provides an analysis of civic education across the country.  Like the report (above) from Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, the NCLCE 2013 report did not criticize Colorado per se.  But it too reveals far more attention to the issue in many other states.

A.  “Since 2003, NCLE periodically has conducted a comprehensive 50-state civic education policy scan to identify adopted policies that encourage, support, and advance civic learning and engagement for P-20 students. Whether and how state policymakers include civics in state policy is imperative, not only to ensure that students learn the civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to be educated and engaged American citizens, but also to send the message ‘that preparation for active, informed citizenship is the co-equal purpose of education along with preparation for higher education and career.’
     “While the role that civic education plays in public schools has been reduced in the past 50 years, the civic education field continues to make significant strides in identifying best practices
for civic education. As evident in NCLCE’s most recent 50-state policy scan, some states have recognized such best practices by enacting policy on ‘civics,’ ‘citizenship education,’ and ‘social studies.’”  (

Last week I met with Paul Baumann, the Director of NCLCE at ECS, who spoke of states like Florida and Tennessee where meaningful new efforts around civics education are under way.  He told me of states where the Secretary of State has played a lead role in pushing for a stronger civics requirement of K-12 schools,  of a State Supreme Court Justice in California who initiated efforts  leading to a state task force to improve civics education, and of legislative changes made in Massachusetts and Illinois.  At the NCLCE website we read, too, of recent policy changes in Virginia and other states to strengthen civic education.  Surely Colorado could look to and learn from these efforts.

B. NCLCE’s 50-state survey, “High School Graduation Requirements - Citizenship Education,” includes a number of states, including Colorado, where two-sentences suffice to summarize expectations. But if you look through the national survey, you will be struck by how specific and rigorous the expectations are in many other states—in contrast to our own. I offer two other states here as examples; see also Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Virginia, and Washington.

Public schools are required to teach a course on the history and civil government of the state of Colorado and the United States, to include the history, culture and contributions of minorities. Satisfactory completion of this course is required for high school graduation. (C.R.S. 22-1-104) rev. 09/2008
Students are required to complete 3.5 credits, "encompassing at least United States history, geography, government and citizenship, world history, and economics --OR-- three credits of social studies encompassing at least United States history, geography, government and citizenship, world history and one-half credit of economics taught in a school's social studies, business, or agricultural education department." (Minn. Stat. §120B.024.4)
"The commissioner in the 2010-2011 school year must revise and align the state's academic standards and high school graduation requirements in social studies to require that students satisfactorily complete the revised social studies standards beginning in the 2013-2014 school year. The commissioner must implement a review of the academic standards and related benchmarks in social studies beginning in the 2019-2020 school year." (Minn. Stat. § 120B.023) rev. 09/2008
"Requirements for graduation from every high school shall include twenty units earned in grades nine through twelve and shall be distributed as follows: (6) History and government, one unit, which shall include both of the following: (a) American history, one-half unit; (b) American government, one-half unit; and (7) Social studies, two units." Beginning with students who enter ninth grade for the first time on or after July 1, 2012, the required study of American history and American government shall include the study of all of the following documents: (1) The Declaration of Independence; (2) The Northwest Ordinance; (3) The Constitution of the United States with emphasis on the Bill of Rights; and (4) The Ohio Constitution. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann § 3313.603(B)) rev. 09/201

3.   Addendum A offers a useful comparison and contrast between Colorado and Massachusetts in their expectations for civic education.

4.   Addendum B offers a useful comparison and contrast between the expectations in the Colorado      
     Academic Standards and the guidelines in the Core Knowledge Sequence, used by over 60 Colorado schools. (I taught in three of them: two charter schools, one a Catholic school.)  Our local control state does not need to impose anything as specific as the Core Sequence in civics (or, specifically, civil rights—see page 9).  Remember, “districts are required to adopt local standards that meet or exceed the Colorado Academic Standards.”[2] Charter schools—like the two where I taught—have the freedom to commit to a curriculum that exceeds the expectations of the district.  No state control.  A choice.

    Three years ago, in Another View #76, “Colorado scores an F on our history standards – and what we can do about it (without spending a dime),” I contrasted our state standards—which FAIL TO MENTION WORLD WAR II—with the specific information in the 7th grade Core Knowledge Sequence.  What I wrote then applies just as well for civics today:

     “I believe many schools and teachers would be glad to have a list of essential names, places, events, and critical ideas to address (which is hardly ‘dictating curricula,’ true?)  It is challenging enough to prepare the best units and lesson plans; I certainly wanted some choices as a teacher, but I was sure there were folks brighter than me who could come up with the big picture, the essentials of what to teach.”  Addendum B, pages 8 and 9, offer such a list for eighth grade.  
5.   Addendum C presents the findings from the National Assessment of Education Progress’s measurement of student understanding on civics. NAEP has conducted three such national tests in the past fifteen years.  Its most recent assessment in 2010 found fewer than 25% of 8th and 12th grade U.S. students proficient in civics.  
6.   Addendum D quotes from E Pluribus Unum: A call for a renewed focus on civic education in our schools.

7.   Addendum E quotes from a variety of sources making the case for teaching civic education and our history.

8.   Will colleges and universities teach civics? Not likely!
If a solid understanding of our government and citizenship is not expected in our K-12 public schools, can we hope that it will be an essential part of freshman or sophomore year in our institutions of higher education?  No.  The American Council of Trustees and Alumni’s “What Will They Learn?” revealed that only 18% of the 1,100 colleges and universities surveyed require a course in American history or government. (      
Major higher education institutions in Colorado appear to be part of this national pattern.  “What Will They Learn?” found these Colorado colleges did not require U.S. Government or History: Colorado State University, Fort Collins (, the University of Colorado at Boulder (, or the University of Denver (

9.   That report included a letter of introduction from Harry R. Lewis, former Dean at Harvard University:
“If I may, let me draw your particular attention to one area. Many studies have shown that our college graduates are ignorant of the basic principles on which our government runs. For starters, most cannot identify the purpose of the First Amendment, what Reconstruction was, or the historical context of the Voting Rights Act. If you peruse this website, you will see why: the vast majority of our colleges have made a course on the broad themes of U.S. history or government optional. This is especially dangerous in America, where nothing holds us together except our democratic principles. If universities don’t pass them down, our children will not inherit our nationhood genetically. They can receive that heritage only through learning. That’s one key reason that during the college search you must ask: what will they learn?” (

10.  “In Teaching America, more than 20 leading thinkers sound the alarm over a crisis in citizenship—and lay out a powerful agenda for reform.
“… Their message: To remain America, our country has to give its kids a civic identity, an understanding of our constitutional system, and some appreciation of the amazing achievements of American self-government. But we are failing. Young Americans know little about the Bill of Rights, the democratic process, or the civil rights movement. Three of every four high school seniors aren’t proficient in civics, nine of ten can’t cut it in U.S. history, and the problem is only aggravated by universities' disregard for civic education. Such civic illiteracy weakens our common culture, disenfranchises would-be voters, and helps poison our politics.”
New Frontiers in Education, 2011
Looking for schools where this is more than just “nice in theory”? Teaching America’s editor David Feith has worked closely with the Harlem-based Democracy Prep Charter Schools, which first opened in 2006, and now has 14 schools. “… authentic civic education has been an essential part to our overall academic success…” Its CitizenshipFirst initiative aims “to remind educators, policymakers and all Americans that the founding purpose of education was to prepare our nation’s young people for self-government…. Restoring the civic mission of education must be an urgent national priority.”

Addendum A

From Colorado Department of Education - State Standards/Social Studies/Civics

Prepared Graduate Competencies in Social Studies
The prepared graduate competencies are the preschool through twelfth-grade concepts and skills that all students who complete the Colorado education system must master to ensure their success in a postsecondary and workforce setting.

The four standards of socials studies are history, geography, economics, and civics.…

(Our revised standards in civics teach) “the complexity of the origins, structure, and functions of governments; the rights, roles and responsibilities of ethical citizenship; the importance of law; and the skills necessary to participate in all levels of government” (p. 3).

Colorado’s standards for civics begin with a statement that, if adequate, is hardly compelling, when compared to that from either Massachusetts (see next page) or Virginia.

Civics has an impact on every individual daily through the work of city councils, state legislatures, Congress and school boards. Civics teaches students the complexity of the origins, structure, and functions of governments; the rights, roles, and responsibilities of ethical citizenship; the importance of law; and the skills necessary to participate in all levels of government.

Civics is a foundational component of the educational experience and critical to the continued success of our society. A democratic and free society relies on the skills, intelligence, engagement and virtue of its citizens. Our students will one day be responsible for strengthening our civic culture based on the knowledge they learn at school, their own values, and their choices for action. Democracy demands that they have these tools to be responsible contributors to civic culture.

Prepared Graduates
The prepared graduate competencies are the preschool through twelfth-grade concepts and skills that all students who complete the Colorado education system must master to ensure their success in a postsecondary and workforce setting. 

Prepared Graduate Competencies in the Civics standard are:
·        Analyze and practice rights, roles, and responsibilities of citizens.
·        Analyze the origins, structure, and functions of governments and their impacts on societies and citizens.

From Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework

   Our cultural heritage as Americans is as diverse as we are, with multiple sources of vitality and pride. But our political heritage is one – the vision of a common life in liberty, justice, and equality as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution two centuries ago.
   To protect that vision, Thomas Jefferson prescribed a general education not just for the few, but for all citizens, “to enable every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom.”  A generation later, Alexis de Tocqueville reminded us that our first duty was to “educate democracy.”  He believed that all politics were but the playing out of the “notions and sentiments dominant in a people.”  These, he said, are the “real causes of all the rest.”  Ideas, good and bad, have their consequences in every sphere of a nation’s life.

   Our call for schools to purposely impart to their students the learning necessary for an informed, reasoned allegiance to the ideals of a free society rests on three convictions:

·        First, that democracy is the worthiest form of human governance ever conceived.
·        Second, that we cannot take democracy’s survival or its spread or its perfection in practice for granted. Indeed, we believe that the great central drama of modern history has been and continues to be the struggle to establish, preserve, and extend democracy at home and abroad. We know that very much still needs doing to achieve justice and civility in our own society. Abroad, we note that only one-third of the world’s people live under conditions that can be described as free.
·        Third, we are convinced that democracy’s survival depends upon our transmitting to each new generation the political vision of liberty and equality that unites us as Americans. It also depends on a deep loyalty to the political institutions our founders put together to fulfill that vision. ….

The kind of critical thinking we wish to encourage must rest on a solid base of factual knowledge. The central ideas, events, people, and works that have shaped our world, for good and ill, are not at all obsolete. Instead, the quicker the pace of change, the more critical it will be for us to remember them and understand them well. We insist that without this knowledge, citizens remain helpless to make the wise judgments hoped for by Jefferson.
   First, citizens must know the fundamental ideas central to the vision of the 18th century founders, the vision that holds us together as one people of many diverse origins and cultures. Not only the words … but the sources, the meanings, and the implications of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist papers, the Bill of Rights.
   Second, citizens must know how democratic ideas have been turned into institutions and practices, the history of the origins and growth and adventures of democratic societies on earth, past and present. How have these societies fared? Who has defended them and why? Who has sought their undoing and why? What economic, social, cultural, religious, and military conditions have helped to shape democratic practice? What conditions have made it difficult, sometimes even impossible, for such societies to take root? Again, it is indispensable to know the facts of modern history, dating back at least to the English Revolution, and forward to our own century’s total wars; to the failure of the nascent liberal regimes of Russia, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Japan; to the totalitarianisms, oppressions, and mass exterminations of our time. How has it all happened?
   Third, citizens in our society need to understand the current condition of the world and how it got that way, and be prepared to act upon the challenges to democracy in our own day. What are the roots of our current dangers, and of the choices before us? For intelligent citizenship, we need a thorough grasp of the daily workings of our own societies, as well as the societies of our friends and our adversaries, and of those who live amid poverty and violence, with little freedom and little hope.
   This is no small order…. How can we avoid making all of this unto nothing more than just another, and perhaps longer, parade of facts, smothering the desire to learn? 
   We believe that the answer is to focus upon the fateful drama of the historical struggle for democracy.
… Advocates of democracy remain, as before, prey to extremists of Left and Right, who are well-armed with force and simple answers. The ongoing, worldwide struggle for a free center of “broad, sunlit uplands,” in Churchill’s phrase, is the best hope of the earth, and we would make it the heart of a reordered curriculum for history and social science.  (

Addendum B

Colorado State Standards vs. Core Knowledge Sequence – Expectations for 8th graders

EIGHTH GRADE is chosen in part because I am familiar with what my 8th graders in a Core Knowledge school (see next two pages) were asked to study.  The following comes from the Core Knowledge Sequence, a curriculum guide, so it is bound to be far more specific than state standards; however, I believe it represents a useful contrast to the vague state expectations, and indicates what more districts and schools might add to ensure teachers commit to a civics curriculum with real substance. I also choose 8th grade as it appears that in Colorado’s state standards on civics, this grade is the most thorough, especially on matters pertaining to understanding the constitution.  (Fifth grade is another grade with a fairly specific list of expectations. Our high school guidelines—see footnote—are nebulous.[3])

Colorado State Standards - Social Studies - Standard 4: Civics

Prepared graduates: Analyze and practice rights, roles, and responsibilities of citizens
Grade Level Expectation – 8th Grade  -   Concepts and skills students master:
1.      Analyze elements of continuity & change in the United States government & the role of citizens over time
Students can:
  1. Describe instances in which major political, social, economic, or cultural changes occurred and the reasons for the changes
  2. Analyze the changing definition of citizenship and give examples of the expansion of rights
  3. Describe examples of citizens and groups who have influenced change in United States government and politics 
  4. Evaluate the result of various strategies for political change over time
  5. Analyze primary sources supporting democratic freedoms and the founding of our government. Documents to include but not limited to the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights and explain how they provide for both continuity and change
  6. Examine ways citizens may effectively voice opinions, monitor government, and bring about change nationally

Prepared Graduates:  Analyze origins, structure, & functions of governments &
their impact on societies and citizens
2. The place of law in a constitutional system                                                 
Students can:
  1. Discern various types of law
  2. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of rule of law
  3. Describe and engage in various means of conflict management
  4. Explain the role and importance of the Constitution  
  5. Discuss the tensions between individual rights, state law, and national law
  6. Explain how state and federal court power of judicial review is reflected in the United States form of constitutional government
  7. Use a variety of resources to identify and evaluate issues that involve civic responsibility, individual rights, and the common good

From Core Knowledge Sequence
History and Geography: Grade 8

Central themes of the history guidelines in grades seven and eight are growth and change in American democracy, and interactions with world forces, particularly nationalism and totalitarianism. Fundamental principles and structure of American government are reviewed in a civics unit in this grade. (p. 204)

VII. Civics: The Constitution—Principles and Structure of American Democracy (p. 209)
• Overview of the U.S. Constitution
James Madison
Founders’ view of human nature
“If it is a ‘mastery’ we are shooting for, I would hope no student would be allowed out of the eighth grade unless he or she knew by heart the First Amendment, which is, after all, the binding legal answer to the question concerning the permissible extent of freedom of expression….  There are only forty-five words in the First Amendment, and I cannot imagine that the brains of our students would be damaged by learning them, and in the order in which they are written.”
Neil Postman, The End of Education, pp.133-134.
Concept of popular sovereignty, the Preamble                                               
Rule of law
Separation of powers                                                                  
Checks and balances                                                  
Enumeration of powers
Separation of church and state
Civilian control of the military
• Bill of Rights
Amendments protecting individual rights from infringement (1-3)
Amendments protecting those accused of crimes (5-8), Miranda ruling
Amendments reserving powers to the people and states (9 and 10)
Amendment process
Amendments 13 and 19
• Legislative branch: role and powers of Congress
Legislative and representative duties
Structure of the Congress, committee system, how a bill is passed
Budget authority, “power of the purse”
Power to impeach the president or federal judge
• Executive branch: role and powers of the presidency
Chief executive, cabinet departments, executive orders
Chief diplomat, commander-in-chief of the armed forces
Chief legislator, sign laws into effect, recommend laws, veto power
Appointment power, cabinet officers, federal judges
• Judiciary: Supreme Court as Constitutional interpreter
Loose construction (interpretation) vs. strict construction of U.S. Constitution
Concepts of due process of law, equal protection
Marbury v. Madison, principle of judicial review of federal law, Chief Justice John Marshall

From Core Knowledge Sequence

The 8th Core Knowledge Sequence in History and Geography includes several other units as well[4].  I present details from one specific unit, “The Civil Rights Movement,” as it is particularly helpful in asking students to explore key issues of what it is to be a citizen in our country.  As an English teacher, I had my 8th grade students reading Core Knowledge recommended readings from Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Dubois, Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X.  Their speeches, memoirs, and essays could be understood in large part because—down the hall, in their social studies class—the content in the curriculum was first-rate.   

III. The Civil Rights Movement (p. 206)
• Segregation
Plessy v. Ferguson, doctrine of “separate but equal”
“Jim Crow” laws
• Post-war steps toward desegregation
Jackie Robinson breaks color barrier in baseball
Truman desegregates Armed Forces
Adam Clayton Powell, Harlem congressman
Integration of public schools: Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Thurgood Marshall
• Montgomery Bus Boycott, Rosa Parks
  You might ask: Why add this?  Isn’t the Civil Rights Movement something other than Civic Education?
   My answer: Is it? In fact, isn’t a study of this movement a great opportunity to examine citizenship—where denied, and how achieved—especially for citizens of color, throughout our history? 
   “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir…. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.” (italics mine) 
 “I Have a Dream,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
• Southern “massive resistance”                                                           
Federal troops open schools in Little Rock, Arkansas
Murder of Medgar Evers
Alabama Governor George Wallace “stands in schoolhouse door”
• Nonviolent challenges to segregation: “We shall overcome”
Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins                                           
Freedom riders, CORE
Black voter registration drives
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
March on Washington, “I have a dream” speech
“Letter from Birmingham Jail”
Selma to Montgomery March
• President Johnson and the civil rights movement
The Great Society, War on Poverty, Medicare
Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965, affirmative action
• African American militance
Malcolm X
Black Power, Black Panthers
Watts and Newark riots
• Assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy

ANOTHER COMMENT CONTRASTING OUR STANDARDS and the CORE SEQUENCE: Among the names and places listed above in the Core Sequence for 8th grade, nowhere in the Colorado social studies standards—for all grades—is there mention of James Madison, John Marshall, church and state, Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Montgomery Bus Boycott, Selma, or Birmingham. The Civil Rights Movement gets one mention—for high school students: “Analyze the complexity of events in United States history. Topics to include but not limited to the suffrage movement and the Civil Rights Movement.” The Bill of Rights is mentioned three times in 123 pages, but there is not one word on the other amendments.

Addendum C
From NAEP’s Executive Summary of its 2010 national assessment in civics

In 2010, 72% of 8th graders scored at the BASIC level, and just 22% of 8th graders achieved the PROFICIENT level.  For 12th graders, 64% scored at the BASIC level; only 24% were PROFICIENT.

“Nationally representative samples of about 7,100 fourth-graders, 9,600 eighth-graders, and 9,900 twelfth-graders participated in the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in civics. At each grade, students responded to questions designed to measure the civics knowledge and skills that are critical to the responsibilities of citizenship in America’s constitutional democracy. Comparing the results from the 2010 assessment to results from two previous assessment years shows how students’ knowledge and skills in civics have progressed over time. [We see] students making progress in civics at grade 4 but not at grades 8 and 12.
“In comparison to earlier civics assessments in 1998 and 2006, the average score in 2010 was
• not significantly different from the score in either year at grade 8, and
• lower than the score in 2006 but not significantly different from the score in 1998 at grade 12.”

Trend in 8th and 12th grade NAEP civics average scores, given 1996, 2006, and 2010.

Grade 8

Grade 12



What are students studying in civics?

·        88% of fourth-graders had teachers who reported emphasizing politics and government to a small extent or more in social studies classes in 2010.
·        78% of eighth-graders reported studying about Congress in 2010.
·        67% of twelfth-graders reported studying about the U.S. Constitution in 2010.

“[8th grade] students were asked if they studied certain topics specifically related to civics during the school year.”  Here is the “percentage of students assessed in eighth-grade NAEP civics, by student-reported civics topics studied during the 2010 school year.”
·        U.S. Constitution 82%
·        Congress 78%
·        Political parties, elections, and voting 75%
·        State and local government 70%
·        How laws are made 70%
·        Court system 64%
·        President and cabinet 62%
·        Other countries’ governments 40%
·        International organizations (such as the United Nations) 33%

“Examples of skills demonstrated by students performing at each level in 8th grade:
Basic: identify a right protected by the First Amendment.
Proficient: Recognize a role performed by the Supreme Court.
Advanced: Name two actions citizens can take to encourage Congress to pass a law.”

All information and most all words quoted from The Nation’s Report Card – Civics 2010, (

Addendum D
From E Pluribus Unum – A call for a renewed focus on civic education in our schools

Six years ago a report from the Bradley Project on America’s National Identity, E Pluribus Unum, spoke to a concern that—given the acrimony over immigration since then—has only grown more vital today.  Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough called the report "the clearest, most powerful summons yet, to all of us, to restore the American story to its rightful, vital place in American life and in how we educate our children. It couldn't be more timely and important." 

The Denver Post’s Dan Haley captured key points from E Pluribus Unum in his column (“Divided we stand,” 6/15/2008), and he encouraged readers to take a look at the report.  I offer several quotes that still ring true, a reminder that, six years later, the case for a renewed focus on civic education is unchanged.

“America is facing an identity crisis. The next generation of Americans will know less than their parents know about our history and founding ideals. And many Americans are more aware of what divides us than what unites us. We are in danger of becoming not ‘from many, one’—E Pluriubus Unum—but its opposite, ‘from one, many.’

UPDATE: On the 2010 NAEP, the percentage of 12th grade students who reported studying the U.S. Constitution in 2010 was lower than the percentage in 2006.
   “A history is to a people what biography is to an individual. ‘History,’ wrote President John F. Kennedy, ‘is the means by which a nation establishes its sense of identity and purpose.’ But America’s memory appears to be slipping away. On the 2006 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Civics Test, the majority of eighth graders could not explain the purpose of the Declaration of Independence. Only five percent of seniors could accurately describe the way presidential power can be checked by Congress and the Supreme Court.

UPDATE: According to Freedom in the World, in 2012,
117 of 195 polities were electoral democracies.
   “… In 1910, ten nations were democracies; by 2005, one hundred nineteen of the world’s one hundred ninety countries had become democracies. As commentator Fareed Zakaria notes, ‘Democracy has gone from being a form of government to a way of life.’ The democratic ethos is critical to American identity and, since no American is a born democrat, democracy must be taught in families, schools, universities, communities, and the workplace.

   “… Civic education is central to the perpetual renewal of American self-understanding. It promotes national identity and national unity by describing American democratic institutions, enumerating the obligations of citizenship, analyzing our founding documents, and reminding Americans not only of their rights but also of their responsibilities—to be informed, to vote, to serve on juries, to participate in voluntary associations.  Forty of our state constitutions stress the importance of civic education.

   “John Adams advised, ‘Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom’—a statement endorsed by all the founders.  Since democrats are made, not born, public schools in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries assumed an obligation to teach principles of freedom in what came to be called ‘the civic mission of schools.’
   “But today American civic identity is threatened by a lethal combination of ignorance and apathy, and the civic commitment of schools needs to be renewed.”
E Pluribus Unum, June 2008, Bradley Project on America’s National Identity

Addendum E
Statements made in support of a greater commitment to civic education in K-12 schools
From Dr. Vartan Gregorian, President, Carnegie Corporation of New York:
     “One of the most promising approaches to increase young people’s informed engagement in our national life is school-based civic education. After all, understanding and actively participating in our civic life was one of the principal missions given to American schools from the very beginning. In creating our nation, the founders realized that they had brought something new into the world in which all citizens were meant to play a vital role.”

From William Damon, author of Failing Liberty – How We Are Leaving Young Americans Unprepared for Citizenship in a Free Society (Hoover institution press, 2011); professor of education, Stanford University.
     “Preparing young people for responsible citizenship in a free society is a crucial part of (the) obligation for adult citizens in the United States.  This book’s main message is disclosed in its title: at the present time, we are failing to meet this obligation for major sectors of our youth population, to the detriment of their life prospects and those of liberty and democracy in our society” (p. 2)

     “In the United States today, the national political leadership clearly believes that public schools should limit their goals to teaching students elementary skills required for employment and national competitiveness.  Once called the ‘Three R’s,’ such basic skills now are known as literacy and numeracy.  The leadership’s operating assumption seems to be that single-minded focus on these elementary skills—especially numeracy—will prepare students for the ‘STEM’ subjects that open up careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
     “I concur on the importance of ensuring that all our students master basic skills in literacy and numeracy, for many reasons that include career opportunities and national competitiveness.  But the narrow focus on these skills squeezes out other essential learning goals that our schools need to accomplish for the sake of their students as well as our society.” (p. 58)
From the historian Gordon Wood:
     “We Americans have a special need to understand that our history is what makes us a nation and gives us a sense of our nationality. A people like us, made up of every conceivable race, ethnicity, and religion in the world, can never be a nation in the usual sense of the term. It’s our history, our heritage, that makes us a single people…. Up until recently almost every American, even those who are new immigrants, possessed some sense of America’s past, however rudimentary and unsophisticated. Without some such sense of history, the citizens of the United States can scarcely long exist as a united people.”
From David McCullough, author of John Adams, 1776, Truman, The Greater Journey, and many other books.
      “We are raising a generation of young Americans who are by-and-large historically illiterate. And it’s not their fault….”  (
      “I’ve had numerous occasions where students don’t know the first thing about historical figures, or even recognize their names—for example, General George C. Marshall. It’s true of any number of historical figures and historical events. They’ve never heard of them. They simply don’t know what happened, or why, or who was involved. This is the case, I’d emphasize, in the very best universities in the country.
      “If we raise one generation after another with very little interest in history and even less knowledge, we’re accepting a creeping form of amnesia. We’re forgetting the story of who we are, and how we came to be the way we are.”

Another View, a newsletter by Peter Huidekoper, represents his own opinion and is not intended to represent the view of any organization he is associated with.     Comments are welcome. 303-757-1225 /

[1] [1]Two years later, perhaps an early sign that our districts and schools needed another push (surprise, passing one bill wasn’t going to do the trick!), new legislation added this: “22-1-104. Teaching of history, culture, and civil government.

[2] Colorado Academic Standards Fact Sheets and FAQs,

[3] Analyze origins, structure, and functions of governments and their impacts on societies and citizens
Grade Level Expectation – High School - 3 examples:
     Describe the origins, purposes and limitations of government and include the contribution of key philosophers and documents
     Analyze the role of the founding documents and the evolution of their interpretation through governmental action and court cases. Documents to include but not limited to the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights
     Evaluate the effectiveness of our justice system in protecting life, liberty, and property

[4] Unit II. - The Cold War; Unit IV. - The Vietnam War and the Rise of Social Activism; Unit V. - The Middle East and Oil Politics; and Unit VI. -The End of the Cold War: The Expansion of Democracy and Continuing Challenges.

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