Monday, October 24th, 2011
Citizenship education is lacking in public and private schools: 75 percent of high school seniors cannot name a power granted to Congress by the Constitution, fewer than half of eighth graders know the purpose of the Bill of Rights, and less than a quarter of young Americans regularly vote, according to a recent survey released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. In addition, civic dialogue is becoming ever more polarized, while public service is openly disdained by many. Previous school reforms have focused on graduation rates and reading and math scores, neglecting education about citizenship and resulting in a lack of basic knowledge about issues at the core of what has made America great.
School reformers are themselves deeply engaged in powerful civic and political action: transforming American educational policy and practice. This presents an opportunity to ensure that America’s schools also focus—as they once did—on forging engaged, empowered citizens. Sponsored by AEI’s Program on American Citizenship, Frederick M. Hess, AEI’s director of education policy studies; Meira Levinson, associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and David E. Campbell, associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, have commissioned leading researchers and scholars to explore the issues of citizenship and schooling by looking at domestic and international data, teacher training, and schools and classrooms. This research will illuminate how America’s schools can renew their focus on forging engaged and empowered citizens.