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Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

Keep civics classes in the curriculum

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I don't mean to pick on the No Child Left Behind act but darn it, there are just so many opportunities to blast the federal program that threatens school funding unless test scores improve. I have said repeatedly that the federal legislation is doomed to failure because some of the sub-groups of students will never achieve the test scores under the current rules.

But on Monday yet another reason surfaced to oppose the No Child Left Behind legislation. Because much of the testing of students now focuses on reading and math - which are essential beyond a doubt - that emphasis comes at the expense of civics education. And that is just profoundly wrong.

Civics education is the gateway through which we teach youngsters the importance of our system of government and the importance of civic participation. Civics and social studies teaches us where we've been and where we can go if everyone pulls their weight. It stresses the importance of voting and the changes that an individual can make in society.

But schools across the country have been forced to scale back on civics because of the new emphasis on reading and math. Arts and music have also been relegated to the basement to provide more time for teaching the subjects on which the tests are based. The problem is obvious - we are ignoring one of the fundamental courses of education at the expense of a federally-mandated test.

State legislatures in Tennessee, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia and Washington are all considering bills that would return civics education to its place of importance in our school system. I sure would like to see Missouri consider similar legislation.

I have long predicted that somewhere down the road the No Child Left Behind movement will quietly fade into history. Few will acknowledge that its death was caused because too many students simply cannot reach the lofty levels the feds would like. But what will not be mentioned is the generation that received little or no civics education. We may well pay a price for this in the years to come.

It is critical that young people fully understand how our system of government works and why they should be involved. It's easy to argue that this piece of the education puzzle is just as important as math or science.

Why in the world are we allowing a failed federal policy to limit our kids' knowledge of their government, their laws and their society? I don't have the answer.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen