Civics in Schools Act

Summary: The Civics in Schools Act requires the Board of Education to develop and implement comprehensive civics education curricula for all [high schools and middle schools] in order to improve students’ civic knowledge, skills and attitudes.

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE

This Act shall be called the “Civics in Schools Act.”

SECTION 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE

(A) FINDINGS—The legislature finds that:

1. Americans have become increasingly disengaged from our civic and political institutions.

2. Americans under the age of 25 are less likely to vote or otherwise participate in the electoral process than their older counterparts or young people of past decades.

3. School-based civics education has declined over a period of decades. As many as three secondary school courses in democracy, civics and government were commonly required until the 1960s.

4. Our schools must provide students with the knowledge they need to become good citizens, including instruction in American government, history, law and democracy.

5. Such instruction should include: classroom discussion of current local, national, and international issues and events; community service opportunities linked to the formal curriculum and classroom instruction; extracurricular activities for young people to get involved in their schools or communities; student participation in school governance; and student participation in simulations of democratic processes and procedures.

(B) PURPOSE—This law is enacted to help young people acquire and use the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will prepare them to be competent and responsible citizens throughout their lives.

SECTION 3. CIVICS EDUCATION CURRICULA

(A) CIVICS EDUCATION CURRICULA ESTABLISHED—The Board of Education shall develop and implement comprehensive civics education curricula for all [high schools and middle schools] to improve students’ civic knowledge, skills and attitudes. Such curricula shall generally include the following:

1. Formal instruction, using interactive methods, about the core documents, institutions, and processes of local, state, and federal government, such as the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, voting, the role of government, and the history and laws of the United States.

2. Opportunities to apply classroom-based knowledge in “real life” situations, including participation in community service, civic engagement projects, extracurricular activities such as student government, and mock elections or other simulations, combined with time for reflection and analysis of these experiences.

3. Classroom discussion of local, national and international issues, public policies, and events that put into social and political context the facts related to civic knowledge, as well as the encounters students have through their experiential learning opportunities.

4. Classroom materials and discussion of the processes of political and social change, particularly those that illustrate the ways that change has occurred historically and the constitutional right that individuals and groups have to promote change.

5. Classroom discussion of the values, responsibilities, rights, and benefits related to being an engaged and responsible citizen of one’s community, state, and nation, as well as discussion of individuals who have made a difference at the local, state, national, or international levels.

(B) PROMISING APPROACHES—The Board of Education should consider the most promising approaches in teaching civic education, including:

1. Teaching civics with materials from the mass media and popular culture.

2. Classroom interaction with elected or appointed government officials.

3. Community service requirements that directly relate to civic values.

4. Competitions such as mock trials, quiz teams or essay contests.

5. Encouragement and facilitation of internships in government or nonprofit offices.

6. Reading programs with civics education content.

7. Encouraging participation in social movements.

(C) CONSULTATION AND CONSIDERATIONS—In developing this civics education curricula, the Board of Education shall consult with local school boards and may draw upon comprehensive standards for civics education developed by voluntary associations such as the Center for Civic Education and the National Council for the Social Studies. Standards and frameworks should be based on current research regarding the development of students’ conceptual understanding of civic principles, institutions and processes.

(D) COMPLETION—The Board of Education shall complete its study of a comprehensive civics education curricula by January 1, 20XX and shall begin implementation of that curricula in schools in the 20XX-20XX school year.

SECTION 4. EFFECTIVE DATE

This Act shall take effect on July 1, 20XX.


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