Louise Dubé -

Feb 23, 2023

Civic Education Moves Forward By Working Together

Group of diverse students studying together

Efforts to promote civic education have made tremendous gains in recent years. Our movement began in earnest in September of 2017, when some 200 leaders met at the now-shuttered Newseum in the nation’s capital for the “Democracy at a Crossroads” summit to discuss the potential for reviving civic education after decades of sidelining the subject.

More often than not, nothing much comes out of conferences like this. Democracy at a Crossroads, however, started the country down a path.

The conference led to the formation of the CivXnow Coalition, which now has 275 organizational members working to create a culture shift that elevates civic education and engagement as a national priority in order to protect and strengthen America’s constitutional democracy. This includes building a shared commitment to ensure that all young people are prepared to assume their rights and responsibilities to participate in civic life.

This year marks the first-ever national Civic Learning Week, running March 6-10 with more than 50 events held virtually and in-person across the country, highlighted by a half-day symposium at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. It is championed by more than 100 organizations — including 20 states that have officially endorsed the week.

Civic Learning Week features luminaries such as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Sonia Sotomayor; leaders in education, research, technology, and gaming; and, importantly, students and parents as the primary stakeholders of civic education.

All of the events are designed to provide positive and engaging civic learning opportunities, and to provide mechanisms for educators, students, coalition partners, business leaders, and other community members to connect at the local level and beyond around a shared commitment to civic education.

That we are now in a position to host a national week dedicated to civics is a testament to how far we have come in just a few short years.

And we have made major strides since 2017:

  • The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the U.S. Department of Education funded — initially under the Trump administration and continued under the Biden administration — the landmark Educating for American Democracy initiative that provides an inquiry-based framework for providing excellence in history and civics for all learners.
  • Congress just increased its allocation for civic education from $7.5 million to $24 million, a significant down payment on future civics initiatives.
  • In the last two years, 16 states adopted 17 policies aligned with CivXNow’s State Policy Menu. And the 2023 spring legislative session shows promise with 43 bills filed to advance civic education in 16 states.
  • A field of research has grown around civic education.
  • School districts across the country are looking for innovative ways to teach civics in a way that meets the needs of today’s student population.
  • Philanthropies and Fortune 500 corporations are now looking to up their investments in civics.
  • Leaders from every sector are looking at how to engage in civic education.

We’ve been able to make these headways because individuals and organizations have worked together across lines of difference. And if we are going to push further forward and truly make civics a national priority, we need to continue to do so as a united front bolstered by champions across a spectrum of ideology. This effort can succeed only if it is void of partisan politics and held above our partisan frays. After all, our kids deserve no less.

We can start this process by looking at where we agree: We agree that civic education is important. We agree that fundamental civic knowledge should be a centerpiece of that education. And we agree that civic skills are crucial.

Time and again, parents indicate the desire for their kids to gain concrete skills that will help them be successful in life and work, and a high-quality civic education does just that. Parents and educators, alike, want the very best civic education for our kids.

The headlines and conversations all around us tell us just how rare agreement on any topic is. They also tell us that civic education is more important than ever.

Civic Learning Week is an opportunity to energize this movement and highlight the important role civic education plays in sustaining and strengthening our constitutional democracy by ensuring that each new generation gains the civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to become informed and engaged members of our self-governing society.

Join us in-person or online for Civic Learning Week— and let’s demonstrate that we are united behind civic education.

Louise Dubé is the executive director of <a href="https://icivics.org/" target="_blank">icivics.org</a>.