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School Choice Key to Instilling Civic Values

Friday, July 12th, 2013

A robust system of education was hailed by our Founding Fathers as vital to maintaining liberty in America. However, Jason Bedrick from the Cato Institute argues that traditional public schools are failing to instill the civic values needed to promote our democracy.

James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution, argued that the republic needed a strong system of education to flourish:

[Educational institutions] throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty. […] What spectacle can be more edifying or more seasonable, than that of Liberty and Learning, each leaning on the other for their mutual & surest support?

Yet, survey results indicate that schools of choice, not traditional public schools, provide the best baseline of civic education, Bedrick says. There have been seven empirical studies considering the effect of school choice on civic values. According to the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, five of those seven studies found that school choice improved civic values in students, while the other two studies finding no significant difference between school types.

For another perspective, see our “Teaching Citizenship in Charter Schools” project, which explores how charter schools have innovated to improve civic education.