To the Editor:
While it is unclear how many times a teenager can be forced to recite the checks and balances between the three branches of government before becoming comatose, it is crystal clear that such “lessons” still constitute the bulk of civics education in American classrooms.
Also obvious is that such lessons produce the type of testable data that the education industry prefers for its data-driven assessment tools and matrices.
Co-optation by the attendant “not tested, not taught” mind-set haunts civics advocates pushing for meaningful civics curricula in the new Common Core State Standards landscape. Your article “Student Mastery of Civics Ed. Goes Untested” (Oct. 17, 2012) highlighted the lack of consensus about what civics content should be taught.
The new Civics for All Initiative in Seattle, which is asking the school board to adopt a policy of civics instruction across our district’s entire K-12 curriculum, might offer some perspectives.
The initiative calls for one civics classroom-based assessment, or CBA, for grades K-5 and two civics CBAs for grades 6-12, in addition to other requirements. The approach depends on a vertically integrated, spiral curriculum wherein essential questions and civics principles are revisited in a scaffolded K-12 plan that kindles each student’s civic identity.
The academic development of a students’ credo, or civic code, is best fostered through a political science lens because it is relevant to all civic issues, current events, and, crucially, to already-required social studies topics. As Aristotle suggested, civics is politics and politics is civics.
Civics, Social Studies, and Language Arts Teacher
South Lake High School
The writer is the founder of the Civics for All Initiative.
A version of this article appeared in the November 15, 2012 edition of Education Week as Schools Should Develop Students’ Civic Identities