The Corner

Education

Civic Education Should Unite Americans, Not Divide Us

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National Review has recently published two pieces that describe a movement to reinvigorate civics, and reestablish the subject as a centerpiece of K–12 education, as a move toward “woke” civics.

These two stories by Stanley Kurtz appear more interested in fueling divisions than they are in giving a factual accounting of what we are actually trying to accomplish: The goal of iCivics and the CivXNow coalition is to ensure that every K–12 student receives a high-quality civic education. To sustain our constitutional democracy requires that every new generation gain an understanding of our government, the rule of law, and our history.

Instead of divisions, we seek common ground — because the civic education for which we advocate is rooted in civil discourse. How we get through this conflict and come to agreement is a civics lesson in and of itself.

Civic discourse begins with knowing the facts, so that all parties can build their arguments based on truth. So, here are some of the truths about iCivics, the civic education nonprofit founded in 2009 by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and CivXNow, the cross-ideological coalition of organizations that are working together to bring civics back into the forefront of K–12 education.

We believe that civic education starts with explaining the fundamentals of how our constitutional democracy works. Why are our institutions and processes designed to operate as they do? What are the roles of the executive, judicial, and legislative branches? What powers are reserved to the states, and why?

We also believe that modern civics goes further and tackles the hard questions that we must ask ourselves as Americans in this precarious moment in our history: How can we have strongly differing partisan views yet talk them through civilly? How do we motivate civic agency and sustain our constitutional democracy? What is the spirit of both argument and compromise that the complex politics of our constitutional democracy is meant to foster? How do we reconcile racial injustice with our country’s ideals of equality? And yes, how do we give the complete narrative of America’s plural, yet shared story?

Here are some other facts about us that you should know so that we can have a productive conversation:

iCivics itself is non-partisan. Our mission is to ensure that every student receives a high-quality civic education and becomes engaged in — and beyond — the classroom. The schools that use iCivics content are all over the country, in districts that reflect the entire electoral map of the United States. iCivics serves all of them. The 120,500 teachers and 7.6 million students who use iCivics annually will attest to this.

CivXNow is a coalition of many diverse organizations. These include more than 150 institutions, foundations, universities, and civic education providers that span the ideological spectrum. And it includes such organizations such as the Ronald Reagan Institute, the Y, the Girl Scouts of the U.S., the American Bar Association, and over 150 other institutions and civics providers.

And let us dispel some of the mistruths that have recently been published by stating some other facts:

  • The articles state that iCivics and CivXNow were “closely involved in the development of that Illinois Civics campaign to bring so-called anti racism and Critical Race Theory into the classroom.” We had no involvement in this legislation whatsoever.
  • While some members of our coalition are action civics providers, the amount of action civics in schools today is extremely small compared with other civic education instructional methods represented in our coalition.
  • iCivics and CivXNow do not advocate — and have never advocated — the adoption of a national curriculum. The bipartisan “Educating For Democracy Act,” which we support, proposes that grants to improve civic education be given to states. The only requirement is that they participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (“The Nation’s Report Card) exam in history and civics. This is a bipartisan bill co-introduced by Senators John Cornyn (R., Texas) and Chris Coons (D., Del.), and Representatives Tom Cole (R., Okla.) and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut (D., Conn.).

Americans are troubled by the state of our country, and civic education offers a way forward. Frank Luntz — in a recent pro-bono poll conducted for CivXNow — found that civic education is the most popular solution to what ails our country among a representative sample of the American electorate. Because of disinvestment in civic education, we as a country are not giving our young people what they need to inherit our constitutional democracy. And we believe that we, working together, can fix that problem, but only if we put country first, seek common ground, and abandon the culture war.

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