Education

What Do I Need To Do To Put You in a Civics Class Today?

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If you're in Tennessee, you bitch and moan about how the No Child Left Behind Act means everybody's focusing on math and reading, leaving no time at all in the day for civic indoctrination. From the AP via the Cincy Enquirer:

Since the federal No Child Left Behind law was passed in 2002, schools have focused on reading and math, and that has squeezed out other subjects like arts, music and civics, educators say. So lawmakers in Tennessee and other states have proposed bills this year to save civics.

A bill from state Sen. Rosalind Kurita would require the Tennessee Department of Education to create a separate civics course in at least one grade between fifth and eighth grade….

Kurita said teaching students about voting and citizenship rights is just as important as math and English. Ted McConnell, director of the Campaign to Promote Civic Education—an initiative of the Center for Civic Education—agrees.

"Study after study shows that when our youth are exposed to effective civic education courses, they're not only more likely to vote, but they're more likely to get involved in their communities and work toward solutions to societal problems," he said.

Attention to civics in the classroom had been declining over the past 20 years, McConnell said, but the "decline was dramatically accelerated after the implementation of No Child Left Behind."

He cited a study done last year by the Washington-based Center for Education Policy that showed 71 percent of school districts surveyed said they have had to reduce instructional time in at least one other subject to make room for increased attention to math and reading because of the federal law.

"We find that the first target of those cuts is usually social studies, which often includes civic learning," McConnell said….

"To inform students about government, how the legal community and how society works, is critical to education," said state Sen. Jamie Woodson, a Republican and chair of the Senate Education Committee. "It's as important as math and science."

More here.

I'm no fan of the No Child Stuff–the apotheosis of federal overreach in education with nothing on the upside. Just more spending, standardized testing and, most grotesquely, a fake-escape valve for kids jailed in the crappiest public schools.

However, the sort of bitching and moaning articulated above really sets my hair on fire too. Maybe if everyone everywhere immediately cuts civics courses, it's because they are widely recognized as even more of a joke than other classes already being forced on child-prisoners? Without even going into the serious question of whether schools should teach civics (i.e., the "official story" of a state apparatus) in the first place, maybe school administrators could squeeze a few extra minutes out of the day by dropping drug education classes or crab-soccer tournaments in gym class or lectures on ringworm in health? Or maybe lengthen the school day and year, so that it not only fits in somehow with a post-agrarian America, but gives teachers–who between 1966 and 1996 averaged 180 days in the classroom)–more time to yap to their charges.

Worth repeating in any school discussion that doesn't move to radical school choice plans: It'll Be a Beautiful Day When the Pentagon Has All the Money It Needs and Bombs Schools Having Bake Sales.