WASHINGTON, DC, Apr 13 — The National Review calls it “The Greatest Education Battle of Our Lifetimes.” The leftist forces in Congress call it a way to promote the study of civics and history in the nation’s classrooms. The National Association of Scholars calls it “progressive activist training in disguise.” It is a proposed piece of legislation called The Civics Secures Democracy Act [CSDA].
Should CSDA become law, it will provide a billion dollars a year in federal grants for what it says is K-12 support for civics and history education. American schoolchildren are, indeed, deficient in their knowledge of history and civics, as the findings of the National Center for Education Statistics consistently report. Our nation’s students obviously need help. But there is skepticism that the CDSA will provide that help as well as authoritative concern that should Congress pass the bill, it can actually distort history and “weaponize” the study of civics.
One of the troubling phrases in the CSDA is “civic engagement.” It purports to be a way of describing the duties of citizenship. But some believe the intent of the law is to turn the younger generations into political activists.
David Randall is Director of Research at the NAS and has written extensively on the topic of civics education. In a recent article in the Epoch Times, he describes what he believes to be the meaning of civics education as it is framed in the proposed law.
He says that the bill’s true focus in the area of “civic engagement” is to allow activists to train America’s next generations to be radical protestors.
Meanwhile, Stanley Kurtz, a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and an expert in the field of civic education, says that the CSDA proposes “supposedly evidence-based [educational] practices, which are essentially the menu of troubling teaching techniques favored by the movement for Action Civics (Bill Page 5, Line 16-Page 6, Line 5). These are the very same practices I have written model legislation to block at the state level. They include: 1) directing teachers to discuss current social and political controversies in class; 2) out-of-class political protests and lobbying (nearly always for leftist causes) for course credit (in the bill, called “projects” and “experiential learning”) and 3) internships with (invariably leftist) lobbying and advocacy organizations for course credit (in the bill, called “service learning”).”
Kurtz describes the bill as “a backdoor effort to impose a de facto national curriculum in the politically charged subject areas of history and civics.”
The NAS has created a new project aimed at countering the potential negative impact of the CSDA. It’s called The Civics Alliance, and it seeks to rally those Americans who wish to see a return of patriotic fervor by teaching our kids how to be responsible citizens. The initiative would promote “authentic civics education” and encourage our children to learn the U.S.’s unbiased history, the why and how our Founding Fathers came up with the idea of creating a unique self-governing federal republic.
NAS President Peter W. Wood put it this way: “This new alliance is a necessary step to ensure that the teaching of our nation’s civics and history accords with the principles of its founding and the reality of that history. Progressive action civics [referring to K-12 and college students being required to protest and lobby for political causes for course credit], while encouraging our students to become activists, fails to promote a full understanding of civics. It fails to teach the responsibilities of citizenship, how our federal republic operates, and the Founders’ reasoning behind America’s balance of powers, Bill of Rights, or encouragement of public education.”
It should be noted that there is no such thing as Action Civics. The teaching of civics in the classroom includes:
- Civic life, politics, and government
- The foundations of the American political system
- How the government established by the Constitution embody the purposes, values, and principles of American democracy
- The relationship of the United States to other nations and to world affairs
- The roles of citizens in American democracy
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