Opinion
Education Opinion

Happy Independence Day!

By skoolboy — July 04, 2008 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Happy Independence Day! Today is an opportunity to reflect on the ideals and principles that founded this great country, and to renew our commitment to uphold and support them when we see signs of erosion and compromise.

What does it mean to be a citizen in the modern world? In the coming year, the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) will be conducting the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS), a study of eighth-graders’ knowledge about and attitudes towards civics and citizenship in 39 countries. Conspicuously missing from the list is the U.S.A. It’s disappointing that the National Center for Education Statistics is not supporting U.S. participation in the study.

The U.S. did participate in the IEA’s 1999 study of civic education among ninth-graders in 28 countries. Students were asked about fundamental concepts of democracy and citizenship that were not specific to the workings of particular governments, especially their attitudes and actions. An example of a content item was a multiple-choice item with the stem “In democratic countries what is the function of having more than one political party?” An example of a skills item was a multiple-choice item presenting a brief political advertisement and asking which group mentioned in the ad had probably issued it.

The U.S. did better than the international average on a test of civic knowledge (which combined civic content and civic skills), and led the world on civic skills. But before we pat ourselves on the back too much, the data also showed that civic knowledge, content and skills were distributed unequally across U.S. ninth-graders, with much higher levels among white and Asian youth than Black and Hispanic youth, and higher levels among ninth-graders with highly-educated parents than among students whose parents did not go very far through school. Black youth scored .85 to .90 standard deviations lower, and Hispanic youth about .70 standard deviations lower, than whites on civic knowledge and its components. Students with at least one parent who had only completed high school scored about .80 standard deviations lower on civic knowledge than students with at least one parent who had completed a bachelor’s degree.

It’s tempting to look at these gaps and infer that they simply reflect the large average differences in academic performance among racial/ethnic and social class groups observed among American youth more generally. But I don’t think that we can count on No Child Left Behind to increase the civic knowledge of our most disadvantaged youth. There’s something very pernicious about a system that fails to educate its most vulnerable members about the very institutions of democracy that were designed to enable them to become productive citizens.

eduwonkette will be back next week. Thanks for the opportunity to post, e.

The opinions expressed in eduwonkette are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP