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Adjusting Our Education Priorities

Monday, July 8th, 2013

The current debate over education reform tends to focus on preparing students for more profitable careers, but Robert Pondiscio argues that there is a more fundamental priority of public schooling: citizenship. Pondiscio, writing for CNN, describes the need for schools to prepare students to be capable of effective self-government—an early priority of our Founding Fathers.

While we frequently hear about the shortfalls in students’ performance in reading and math, Pondiscio argues that citizenship is far worse off, with just one out of five eighth graders proficient in civics and history, according to the latest NAEP tests. Students consistently demonstrate an ignorance of basic constitutional principles, including the rule of law, separation of powers, and our individual liberties. This shortfall is a great concern, Pondiscio maintains:

Students who don’t know their rights don’t recognize when those rights are threatened. Students who don’t know how laws are made will never make or demand changes to them. Those who don’t understand their country’s history and traditions are less than second-class citizens. They are passive bystanders unprepared to participate in our democracy and disinclined to do so.

To learn more about NAEP’s cuts to civics testing, read Gary Schmitt and Cheryl Miller’s op-ed “Does Obama care that US students aren’t prepared to be US citizens?