As you may or may not know, Education Week is now a year into our civics education reporting package, Citizen Z.
This morning, Emily Richmond, the public editor of the Education Writers Association, a membership association for education journalists, interviewed me for a podcast on EWA Radio. The podcast features reporters talking about how they conceived of their stories. Her questions made me reflect on some of the learning I’ve had to do on my own as I’ve worked to balance all of the pieces in this difficult but crucial slice of K-12 education, and now I want to share some of those highlights with you.
The bottom line: None of this is easy. Civics education crosses content areas. It has implications for the day-to-day operation of schools. Yet civics remains somewhat marginalized among the content areas, which have for decades prioritized reading, mathematics, and now the other “STEM” fields, which include technology, science, and engineering as well as math.
Here are some of the main themes our reporting has uncovered:
- Civics education isn’t just about “how a bill becomes a law,” though that’s clearly part of the conversation and a key component of a strong civics program. As I explain in the podcast, for me there’s a striking parallel between civics education and science education. In science, students have to learn not just content but the behaviors and practices scientists engage in. And in civics, students need to understand principles like republicanism and balance of powers, but they also need to begin practicing civic habits—like knowing how to analyze information and how to use civic channels to make change.
- Many of the civic education proposals on the table encourage either a traditional content-based approach or the increasingly popular idea of action civics. While many believe that the most powerful program intertwines both approaches, the exact recipe remains an area of some disagreement—especially among those who believe civics education might potentially lean too heavily into activism.
- There is often a difference between the formal civics curriculum—what students learn in class—and the implied civics curriculum, or the rules and norms that govern schools themselves. Do students have the chance to provide input and shape some of them?
You can listen to me talk about those themes in the podcast below.
Full disclosure: Last fall, the EWA gave Education Week a fellowship that supported some of the reporting in the package. And be sure to continue reading Citizen Z: We will be continuing this reporting through 2019, and in the leadup to the 2020 presidential election.
Illustration: Stephanie Shafer for Education Week
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.