Civic Education

Incorporate civics knowledge across the K-16 curriculum

The Issue

Informed and involved citizens are critical to the survival of any free society. Ronald Reagan remarked, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

The Texas Education Code clearly states that educated and equipped citizens are central to the mission of public education. The state of Texas has also written civic education into its curriculum standards, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

Sadly, these good intentions are not working. In 2016, only 26 percent of Americans could name the three branches of American government—down from 36 percent two years before.

Worse, free speech and debate—the cornerstone of democracy— is under attack: Polling reveals that 61 percent of American college students find that their school prevents some students and faculty from openly declaring their views because others might deem them “offensive.”

Most frightening of all: 20 percent of respondents in a national survey of college students said that using violence to silence a controversial speaker is acceptable. One-fifth of the nation’s best and brightest students have emerged from high school not only ignorant of the importance of free speech but willing to support its violent suppression.

Texas does require an End-of-Course Assessment in U.S. history for high school graduation, but civics is not its focus. This must be changed.

Seventeen states already require their students to take a civics test based on the United States citizenship test. It is time for Texas to do the same.

Recommendations

  • Incorporate knowledge of civics—including the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. and Texas Constitutions, selected Federalist essays, readings from Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Abraham Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass’ critique of the Dred Scott decision, and the Lincoln-Douglas debates—across the K-16 curriculum.
  • Include all concepts assessed on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service test into the Texas state curriculum, and assess all Texas students on the concepts to demonstrate proficiency as a requirement for high school graduation.
  • Use the following suggested platform language:“We support incorporating knowledge of civics—including the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. and Texas Constitutions, selected Federalist essays, readings from Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Abraham Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass’ critique of the Dred Scott decision, and the Lincoln-Douglas debates—across the K-16 curriculum.

    “We support including all concepts assessed on the USCIS citizenship test into the Texas state curriculum and ensuring all Texas students are assessed on the concepts and demonstrate proficiency as a requirement for high school graduation.”

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