Business leaders contend the growing skills gap reflects a critical need to better prepare students to compete in a global economy. But civic leaders argue that placing greater emphasis on STEM education should not come at the expense of civic education, which equips students with the knowledge and skills to participate in our democracy. A widening deficit in civic and political knowledge reveals the nation’s schools are failing to prepare students for active citizenship.
The academic performance of America’s eighth-graders in U.S. history, geography and civics remains relatively unchanged since 2010, according to results of the National Assessment of Education Progress released last month. Less than a quarter of eighth-graders in 2014 performed at or above the “proficient” level in civics. And 26 percent failed to demonstrate even a “basic” understanding of American democracy and system of government.
Given that a well-informed citizenry is an essential perquisite for a successful democracy, the civic knowledge deficit among youth is deeply troubling.
The movement to revitalize and invest in civic education is gaining traction in California. Leading the charge is California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and state Superintendent of Education Tom Torlakson, who teamed up to establish the California Task Force on K-12 Civic Learning. After a year of touring the state to explore and assess the status of civic learning, the 23-member task force released a final report last year outlining a set of recommendations to bolster civic education in California.
Watch the video above to hear California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye explain why improving civic awareness, learning, and engagement in California is critical.