<< The Body Politic
New CIRCLE Report on Youth Political and Civic Engagement
Thursday, October 10th, 2013
Yesterday, the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) presented a new report on educating America’s youth for civic and political participation at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
The report, “All Together Now: Collaboration and Innovation for Youth Engagement”, written by the Commission on Youth Voting and Civic Knowledge, a multidisciplinary group of scholars convened by CIRCLE. The purpose of this report is to inform Americans about deficiencies in youth civic knowledge and engagement.
The report presents data based on several surveys with young adults (ages 18-29), social studies teachers, and other stakeholders. Among the key findings:
- Current levels of knowledgeable engagement by America’s youth remain too low. Less than half of young Americans vote, even in presidential elections, and just 10 percent of Americans between 18 and 24 met a standard of “informed engagement” in the 2012 presidential election cycle.
- Only eight states include social studies in their assessments of school performance, and only 10 states require civics or government teachers to be certified in those subjects.
- Opportunities for civic learning and engagement are highly unequal. White, wealthy students are four to six times as likely as Hispanic or Black students from low-income households to exceed the “proficient” level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in civics. Only 7 percent of students whose parents didn’t graduate from high school and who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch reached “proficient.”
In his remarks, Peter Levine, director of CIRCLE, noted three factors that may inhibit civic and political engagement by America’s youth: a polarized political system, resistance from parents about discussing current events or politics in class, and an unresponsiveness in the civic realm to the rise of social media.
Levine argued for a greater emphasis on K-12 civic education to address these problems. The report’s recommendations include:
- Better state standards that focus on developing advanced civic skills, such as deliberation and collaboration
- Service-learning opportunities that helps students understand the root causes of social problems
- Curricula that teach in detail current voting laws and show students how to register and vote
- Lowering the voting age in municipal or state elections to 17 so that students can puts their new civic knowledge into practice