What does civics education look like in America?

Posted by Brown Center on Education Policy on March 12, 2019

How well are schools preparing students to be effective citizens, voters, and members of their communities? This question seems more relevant than ever in the current era of contentious and polarized politics. Students recently earned national attention by organizing the March for Our Lives, a student-led demonstration against gun violence with marches occurring worldwide. This surge of political activism by young people demonstrates a high capacity for political engagement among students. Yet at the same time, real concerns persist about the extent to which schools are equipping all students with the skills they need to be effective citizens, and whether some students will leave school more prepared than others.

In this context, the 2018 Brown Center Report on American Education focuses on the state of civics education in the U.S. Chapter 2 examines how states have incorporated certain practices into their requirements for civics education and uses survey data to assess whether student experiences reflect these practices. The data highlight how critical parts of a civics education, namely participatory elements and community engagement, are often missing from state requirements, whereas discussion and knowledge-building components appear more common.

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