2 responses to “Instilling civics in our youth

  1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments on our survey. I responded to a few of your comments, as I thought they would help readers better understand some of our choices with wording and so on (http://www.citizenship-aei.org/2010/11/a-long-response-to-thomas-sander-on-our-teacher-survey/). Also, your comment about the “civic-mindedness” of our surveyed teachers seems spot-on to me, and something we should have highlighted.

  2. Cheryl Miller does provide a thoughtful response on the AEI site. I’m not stating that teaching civic facts is unimportant. It clearly is ONE important leg, and it is true that levels of political knowledge (e.g., what % it takes to overcome presidential veto, etc.) are woefully low.

    Ms. Miller’s comment says that they covered civic skills on their survey and states “Good (or active) citizenship involves values, behaviors/actions, and knowledge.” It does require these things but civic skills are something different, unless Ms. Miller defines actions to axiomatically assume that the youth who want to take action know exactly what actions to take and can take them effectively. I may decide that a local leash law is unfair or that I want to block a hazardous waste dump from being sited in my neighborhood. The action I want to ultimately achieve, modifying the leash law or preventing the hazardous waste dump probably requires a host of intermediate actions, like petitioning neighbors, conducting research, talking to representatives, organizing marches or demonstrations, etc. Knowing what intermediate actions to take and how to conduct those effectively is a major skillset to be gained by students and is far afield from knowing how many representatives it takes to pass a law. Typically students need skills, often learned “on-the-job” by working on actual civic projects of their own with coaching. There they can start to learn how to mobilize and persuade others (through passion, through organization, through research, through conducting meetings, delegating responsibilities, etc.). This is what I mean by civic skills, and I still don’t think that are covered by what most people think of by “actions”. Most civic teachers don’t teach this since they are more focused on teaching civic duties (voting, jury duty) and facts, and maybe teaching a civic disposition (usually focused on volunteering), but very few civic teachers really help students get these important skillsets.

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