We support a proposed bill at the Minnesota Legislature that would require 11th- and 12th-graders to take a for-credit civics course.
According to a National Assessment of Educational Progress survey, only 25 percent of U.S. students are proficient in civics.
Civics covers things such as being responsible, active participants in local, state and national governments; seeking out knowledge to be informed voters; how to engage in civil debate; contacting elected officials or media to express ideas or concerns; volunteering for organizations addressing a public interest; and engaging in community problem-solving.
Though there are some teenagers who are versed in these areas, we believe there is much room for improvement.
The bill would require the class as part of the 3.5 social studies credits required for high schoolers to graduate, and the Minnesota Department of Education would collect data from an already required civics test to gauge students’ civics knowledge.
In addition to learning from a book or a teacher for this course, we think many of these topics could be learned through the students experiencing these things first-hand, such as serving as an election judge, engaging in letters to the editor in the newspaper or attending local government meetings.
We believe this course may also be a good opportunity to incorporate programs such as the Newspapers in Education program, which provides newspapers to schools for use in the classroom through sponsorships. The program can teach the value of community involvement and staying informed of major issues in the area and state. It could also reinforce to the students how to select credible news sources when seeking to learn about issues or candidates running for office.
We encourage legislators to support this bill that would be good not only for the rising generation in Fergus Falls, but for the entire state, as well.