Ignoring Civics at DOE

The U.S. Department of Education has published draft priorities for discretionary grant programs for next year and has invited public comment.

The current draft includes 15 priorities–none of which is civic education.

To read the department’s priorities you can go here   and scroll down the page. On the upper-right-hand corner of the page you will see the words “Comment Now.” I hope everyone reading this will enter a comment. The deadline is July 24. Tell the Department of Education to include civic education as a priority.

National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) findings confirm that most of our students are not receiving a remotely adequate grounding in civics and government. Those findings are consistent with a massive amount of research documenting a widespread lack of knowledge about America’s political structure and government, and the omission of civic education from the draft priorities is inconceivable to me.

Basic civic knowledge operates like a common language–it allows us to communicate with each other. It is the foundation upon which so much else depends.

Please tell DOE that civics is essential, and that its omission is unacceptable!


  1. Civics is not only essential but learning the basics should begin, in a simple format, when children begin formal education. Young children do not understand that they have rights to be educated and treated with respect by teachers and other students; other students believe they have the right to bully others, having no understanding of their limitations. All of this comes under the heading of “civics” in it’s most basic form. I am 77 years old and do not understand my rights and the obligation of government to provide and protect these rights. I have learned more from reading Sheila’s blog than I ever learned in 12 years of formal education. One of the most important lessons I have learned is to expand my horizons; reach beyond information the media puts in front of me and research the many sources available on my PC…I also realize I overstep boundaries at times by not recognizing the other definition of being PC:)

    Science, technology, engineering and math are basics of life and should also begin at the onset of learning. I wondered about Numbers 14 and 15; improving parent, family and community engagement is as difficult as supporting military families and veterans due to one-parent households (usually single mothers) and frequent moves due to economic circumstances which are shaky with the current number of poverty level residents. The religion-based voucher schools require all students to study their religion (they do not have to participate in prayer), which I consider to be brainwashing, and the drain of money from public schools will be a constant deterrent to reaching those most in need of quality education. This is a primary civic right of all students and a civic duty that is ignored by local and national government. I have seen comments that state this money goes to the parents – this is NOT true – the money goes to the voucher school and if the student leaves for any reason, the public funds stay in the voucher school. Without the benefit of knowledge of civics, this state and this country has been able to trample on and/or remove our basic civil and human rights using the benefit of the almighty dollar. This issue, like all others before us today, goes back to: FOLLOW THE MONEY.

  2. I left a comment asking “Where in these proposals do we educate students on Civics?”
    One concern I have is the Category selection we have to choose from. Lots of interest groups to choose from but, no where could I select “Tax-paying Citizen”. The closest was “Other”.
    I worry that the Category list indicates whose comments will have priority and actually be read and considered.

  3. Sheila, you had better tell the Department of Education instead. The DOE (Department of Energy) probably does not care. These priorities have to do with statistical outcomes rather than learning strategies. Civic literacy is an important component of the Common Core State Standards (English Language Arts and Social Studies/History).

  4. Jan- I selected “individual”.

    My thought – There are too many categories to choose from which might deter some from commenting. It should have “Academic Professional” so they can see how many academic professionals comment and what their most frequently requested subject is and “Concerned Citizen”. Anything else is fluff.

  5. My submitted comments.

    Nothing influences our preparedness for the future more than education. Both formal and continuing, lifelong learning. With effective parenting, it will determine who we are in the future world and how we stand.

    Americans have always been advantaged by our Constitutionally based political system which has lately come under attack by mass media enculturation funded by personal agendas that are in conflict with common good.

    The people we are educating today will have to choose what to believe, what they stand for. To do that they must be well grounded in our civics history and evolution. They must be able to defend the common good as rigorously as have the heroes of our past who have pulled us back from numerous brinks of what’s good for some, onto the ever progressing plane of what’s good for the most. What law protects.

    As humanity learns evermore, the slope of education gets steeper and necessarily longer and more complex. But basics never diminish in importance. Civics is basic to successful society.

  6. Submitted with the comment: “Please include civics education as a priority. Students are increasingly incapable of becoming responsible citizens who have an informed voice in shaping and operating their own government, because they are not being taught civics in the classroom. An informed populace is essential in order to meaningfully participate in a democratic republic. The American ideal of “government of the people, by the people, for the people” is indeed in danger of perishing from the Earth. Since the nineteenth century, it has been recognized as a fundamental responsibility of public education to ensure that children learn about their government and their role in its operation. That responsibility is not currently being met.”
    To EFK: Dr. Kennedy included a link to the appropriate website. Your snark (“The Department of Energy probably won’t care”) is uncalled for and not appreciated. As always, Dr. Kennedy is working toward improving our social health, and deserves our thanks, not your smugness. And civics may be nominally included in current curricula, but most American kids graduate with hardly the foggiest idea of how their own government works and are even more ignorant of other forms of government. More emphasis must be placed on civics. (What I know of civics I learned either in college or on my own. And the situation has only worsened in the years since I graduated high school.)

  7. You are correct that there is no separate course on civics. Civics instruction is included within the social studies graduation requirements in U.S. government. http://www.doe.in.gov/standards/social-studies

    Unfortunately, the credit requirement is for one semester only and is included among several other standards requirements for U.S. Government. High schools have the flexibility to devote 2 or more semesters to such courses, but Core 40 and honors requirements on math and science subjects have put a scheduling squeeze on other requirements and electives. Few students will grow up to be professional mathematicians but all of them will be part of their community and hopefully they’ll be a engaged and contributing partner to that community.

    It’s a GREAT idea to write the DOE AND Gov. Pence AND the State Board of Ed. members who are assuming increasing control for educational policy. Their e-mails are as follows:

    http://www.in.gov/gov/2752.htm (scroll down on the Governor’s page)

    Tony Walker – tony@walkerlawgroup.biz

    Dr. David Freitas – drdavidfreitas@comcast.net

    Cari Whicker – cwhicker@hccsc.k12.in.us

    Sarah O’Brien – sobrien4cd@yahoo.com

    Andrea Neal – aneal@inpolicy.org

    Dr. Brad Oliver – brad4education@gmail.com

    Daniel Elsener – delsener@marian.edu

    B.J. Watts – bj.watts@evsc.k12.in.us

    Troy Albert – talbert@wclark.k12.in.us

    Gordon Hendry – education@gordonhendry.com

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