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Two new studies on civic engagement and learning

The Fordham Institute grades the states on their U.S. history standards. South Carolina comes out on top, while 28 states–including Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Connecticut–are falling behind. (See where your state placed.) The national average is a D. Why are states failing so badly? The authors explain:

[E]very state requires students to study American history in some form—often in the traditional junior-year U.S. history course—and every state except Rhode Island has mandated at least rudimentary standards for this subject. Yet few hold their schools accountable for teaching the standards or their students accountable for learning the content. In fact, it appears that only thirteen states include any history or social studies as part of a high school exit exam and just eight assess (or will soon assess) social studies or history at both the elementary and high school levels. This under-emphasis on history in K-12 is compounded by the fact that universities seldom require prowess in history as a condition of entrance and almost never make it a graduation requirement of their own.

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute measures civic engagement among college students. (Take the survey here.) The bottom line:

Practically all American colleges purport to effectively teach American history and civics, even promising to encourage more advanced “critical-thinking” regarding many of the institutional features of American government. But the results belie the noble intentions. How can a student reason about the possible consequences of America’s constitutional republic when they have little idea how that constitutional republic was designed and governed in the first place? Furthermore, it appears that due to college’s stalling of civic learning, the academy loses its edge as the producer of informed and engaged citizens. Instead, college seems to produce a passive set of voters that are more inclined than non-college graduates to identify with liberal social causes and political movements. This politicization is certainly not consistent with the kind of independent, informed, and engaged citizenry that Washington hoped to encourage, one that could make direct connections between the lessons of the past, the debates of the present, their own interests, and those of the broader public.

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Civic education opportunities

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ROTC round-up

Photo by Eastern Washington University.

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Around the web, ROTC edition

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