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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Teaching Citizenship

To say that, over the past few years, our federal government has failed to govern is an understatement.  Congress has become polarized by ideologues who see their role not as finding workable solutions to problems, but simply to stand by their ideologies at all costs.  Our representatives are beholden to corporations--who are NOT "people" as some have suggested and are NOT citizens--rather than to the voters who they were elected to represent. 

There are many reasons for this failure, but one that has not been discussed much is the fact that our children receive very little by way of civic education as part of the secondary school curriculum.  When I was in high school in the 1960s, one class in ninth grade was devoted to Pennsylvania History and Civics--an introduction to the Constitution and the structure of our federal government.  Then, in 12th grade, we had a full year of "Problems of Democracy," a course that looked at how the government worked to solve problems.   Sadly, it appears that many schools have dropped these requirements over the past generation.  As a result, fewer voters know what to demand of the people they elect to represent them.

So, I was delighted to learn that the Pennsylvania Department of Education will require a graduation exam in "Civics and Government" beginning in 2020, with the exam available to schools as early as 2016.  It seems like a long time to wait, but I am nevertheless happy that the Commonwealth has acted to ensure that all Pennsylvanians receive some level of citizenship education.

Now, then, it would be great to see our colleges and universities require a capstone general education course in all professional curricula that gives students a sense of what the citizenship responsibilities are of professionals in different fields.