The topic of improving civics education in our schools is receiving increasing attention in 2017. The are several bills requiring high schools to offer civics education as one of the criteria for graduation before the Massachusetts General Court. And the social studies department of the Amherst Regional High School is considering how to include the subject as it revises its curriculum.
The League of Women Voters of Amherst updated its position on Education and the Schools in 2012, which includes the statement that “To prepare students for the challenges and citizenship in an evolving global environment, and for colleges and the workplace when they graduate, schools need to...provide understanding and skills for citizenship in a democracy...”
The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts has established civic engagement and civics education as an action priority. After reviewing some of the state legislative proposals, it sent a letter to the sponsors of one of those bills, S.215/H.2016, as well as to the joint committee on education, expressing support for “the basic purpose of S.215 and H.2016 to promote and enhance civic engagement and learning in the Commonwealth’s schools”.
LWVMA has some reservations about some of the detailed provisions of these bills. For example, while the LWVMA does not support making student-led civics projects a requirement for graduation, as proposed, it does feel that every school district should include at least two student-led civics projects at different grade levels integrated into existing required course curriculum within the K-12 school program and that students should complete those projects. And it feels that the Edward M. Kennedy Civics Challenge qualifying for the top honor will result in so many qualified candidates (surely a wonderful outcome!) that the ultimate selection will amount to a lottery.
LWVMA is also encouraging the bills’ sponsors and the joint committee to include some version of the recommendations in S.278, to “encourage school districts to implement instruction in news media literacy skills at all grade levels, and in any of the core subjects or other subjects, to equip students with the knowledge and skills for accessing, analyzing, evaluating, and creating all types of news media, including print, online, television, and social media.”
For a complete list of bills that LWVMA is following this session, go to League-Supported/Opposed Legislation 2017-2018.