Thinking Citizen Blog — Civics Education — Who is in Charge? Who Should Be?
Thinking Citizen Blog — Friday is Education and Education Policy Day
Today’s Topic — Civics Education — who is in charge? who should be? is there a constitutional right to a civics education?
In late September the headline of an op-ed in the Boston Globe caught my eye: “Keep the Feds Out of Civics Education” by Nicholas Tampio, a professor of law at Fordham University. A month later, I was struck by another headline this time in the Washington Post: “Federal Judge Rules Students Have No Constitutional Right to Civics Education.” So, should the Fed stay out of civics education? Do students have a constitutional right to civics education? Assuming there is such a right, what would be the metric for adequacy? The first part of today’s post sets the context for the Boston Globe article. The second part summarizes Tampio’s argument. The third part are a few of my own thoughts on the subject. What are yours? Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
CONTEXT: CONSTITUTION DAY, 2020 — TRUMP AND CONGRESS PUSH FOR CIVICS EDUCATION
1. On September 17,2020 Trump “announced that he would sign an executive order establishing a commission to promote patriotic education.” He blamed recent urban rioting on “decades of left wing indoctrination in our schools.” (Boston Globe, Tampio)
2. “That same day, members of Congress introduced the bipartisan Educating for Democracy Act, which would authorize $1 billion for civic education.” (ditto)
3. “Neither is a good idea, regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum.” (ditto)
THE FOUNDING FATHERS GOT IT RIGHT — Education should be left up to the states (ditto)
1. “The authors of the Constitution wisely did not list education as a federal power. As James Madison wrote in Federalist №10, Americans separate into factions when they think about questions such as how to educate young people, and no one faction should be able to tyrannize the rest.”
2. “Nationally mandated civics education initiatives, whether they come from Republicans, Democrats, or members of both parties, open the door to having factions dictate to the rest of the country how to prepare children for citizenship.”
3.”Political science research has shown that top-down education reform initiatives tend to make parents express more negative attitudes about government and become less involved in their children’s education. In the name of civics education, both Trump and the sponsors of the Education for Democracy Act are telling parents and citizens, in effect, to keep their thoughts about civics education to themselves and let Washington-based policymakers make the call. That’s anti-democratic.”
CIVICS EDUCATION — THE LAW SCHOOL ANALOGY, BROWN V BOARD (1954) ENGEL V VITALE (1962)
1. The law school analogy: the backbone of civics education should be rigorous training in the ability to make arguments on both sides of the most controversial issues. Metrics for evaluating performance have been used for decades by debating societies and do not need to be reinvented.
2. Brown v Board (1954) only makes sense if you assume that education is a fundamental right and that quality should be comparable across the nation.
3. Engel v Vitale (1962) which banned school prayer left a moral vacuum in schools across America. Civics education is inseparable from moral education. We need a serious conversation about how to integrate the two. The difficulty of the task is not a good reason for not tackling it.
Click here for the last three years of posts arranged by theme:
Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to education or education policy. Or the coolest thought however half-baked you had. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to education or education policy that the rest of us may have missed. Or just some random education-related fact that blew you away.
This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something that is dear to your heart.