The civic education crisis

Today at 2 p.m., e.s.t., we moderated a Council of State Governments webinar called “Civics in the States: What it is and Why it is Needed.”


This is a subject that is very near to our hearts. For the past nine months, we’ve been researching civic education, particularly as it relates to state and local governments, and our report for CSG, “Civic Education: A Key to Trust in Government” was published in December.


Today’s panelists came from the National Center for Learning and Civic Engagement, the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), the Illinois Civic Mission Task Force, and the Constitutional Rights Foundation.


Although there are many resources available that would help states do a better job in educating young people – and adults – about how their government works, civic education has taken a back seat in public education and at the nation’s universities.


We are very cautious about using the word crisis, but that’s sure what it looks like. Each year, the Annenberg Public Policy Center surveys the public on its basic knowledge of how the government works. The news is terrible. Take a look at the chart below, which was based on Annenberg data and put together by the Office of Program and Policy Analysis & Government Accountability in Florida, and you’ll see a steady decline in civic knowledge.  In 2016, only 26 percent of adults surveyed could identify the three branches of government.


In a few days, the webinar will be posted on the CSG website, where a list of past webinars is maintained here.


(The OPPAGA chart was prepared for an excellent February 15, 2017 presentation to the Florida House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee about post-secondary civics education.)



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