<< The Body Politic

Renewing the social compact

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Massachusetts State House 1862Yesterday, Massachusetts state Senator Richard T. Moore took to the opinion pages to promote a new civic education report in Massachusetts by the Special Commission on Civic Engagement and Learning: “Renewing the Social Compact.” As Moore writes, “if our government, ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth,’ as Abraham Lincoln proclaimed, we, the people, need to learn about how our government works, understanding our role as citizens in our own government, and how to become civically engaged. As citizens of our town, state, and country, we have more to do than just voting.”

Moore continues:

In order for our democracy to endure, we must be prepared with knowledge of government and the practices of an engaged citizenry. Unfortunately, our schools must devote so much of class time to preparing students to pass statewide exams in language arts, math and science, that there seems to be no time to teach the fundamentals of citizenship.

Horace Mann, the “father of public education,” and a former President of the Massachusetts Senate, fought for public education in order to prepare students for success in a career and to be responsible citizens. The emphasis in education in recent years is more about career success than preserving our democratic system. [. . .]

All of this was the focus of a year-long public policy dialogue among members of the Special Commission on Civic Engagement and Learning, which recently released its report and recommendation. The Commission included representatives of education and civic organizations concerned about the need for greater attention to civic learning and engagement, not only for students in K-12 schools, but for college and adult learners as well.

The Commission’s report, entitled “Renewing the Social Compact” seeks to challenge all Massachusetts residents to actively participate in the “social compact” described in the Massachusetts Constitution, “by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good.”

Key recommendations from the Commission include:

  • Fund and implement the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) history test;
  • Assist school districts with implementation of the existing civics education graduation requirements;
  • Support the Public Higher Education “Vision Project” to implement civic learning in Massachusetts’ universities;
  • Create an award program to recognize civic education leaders;
  • Establish a center for coordinating adult education initiatives in civics.

Read the rest of Moore’s op-ed here, and be sure to check out the Commission’s report, “Renewing the Social Compact.”