Do we teach civics anymore? Technically, yes, in the public school systems of all 50 states. We often call it government. But are these courses fulfilling the spirit of our country’s founding when it comes to civic responsibility? Thomas Jefferson had something like this in mind: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
Earlier this year an article in the magazine of the National Education Association addressed that spirit and responsibility this way:
“One of the primary reasons our nation’s founders envisioned a vast public education system was to prepare youth to be active participants in our system of self-government. The responsibilities of each citizen were assumed to go far beyond casting a vote; protecting the common good would require developing students’ critical thinking and debate skills, along with strong civic virtues.”
The article concludes that we are experiencing a crisis in civics education: “Only 25 percent of U.S. students reach the 'proficient' standard on the NAEP Civics Assessment.”
Civics is defined as “The study of the rights and duties of citizens.” The people behind Seattle’s Civic Saturday program don’t exactly teach civics, but they are attempting to revive interest in the rights and duties of our citizenship. And their program is expanding to new cities. They talk about their mission here.
Eric Liu and Jena Cane led this last Civic Saturday gathering at Washington Hall on October 1. Sonya Harris recorded the event. Their next gathering is Saturday, November 18, at The Elliott Bay Book Company.