Report: Schools fail to educate U.S. students in civics
The cover story in the May issue of the ABA Journal addresses the alarming lack of civic education in the United States. Mark Hansen’s piece, “Flunking Civics: Why America’s Kids Know So Little,” reports studies by several groups showing that young people simply aren’t learning the basics about civics and history.
The story cites the trend in American education over the last decade of focusing on reading, math and science to the exclusion of “history, social studies, government and civics.” The federal education law No Child Left Behind — passed during George W. Bush’s presidency — and the Obama administration’s support of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs have contributed to the current climate.
The ABA piece also notes that adults have not fared well in civics literacy: “Adults, perhaps unsurprisingly don’t appear to have a better grasp of law, history or government — all of which could be considered essential to civic responsibilities — than students do.”
The First Amendment Center’s annual State of the First Amendment surveys conducted since 1997 have shown that many adults lack basic knowledge about the freedoms found in the first 45 words of the Bill of Rights. For example, in the 2009 survey less than 20% of those surveyed knew that either freedom of the press or freedom of religion were guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Educators must address this alarming lack of knowledge about civics and government. Students need to learn about the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment. Schools should also provide students with environments in which their First Amendment freedoms are respected.