I read through an Education Week Research Center report on Civics Education based on a survey of 524 principals, assistant principals, and other school-based leaders paints a dismal picture. I wanted to highlight some of the findings and then share some thoughts.
Here are some of the findings:
- The average amount of hours spent on civics education is 31 hours per month, the median amount of hours spent on civics education per month is 6. The difference between the two tells me there are some outliers that skew the average number.
- The mean number of hours for elementary school is five per month, for middle school is 6.5 hours, and 10 hours for high school.
- 52 percent of school leaders believe they don’t spend enough time on civics education while 48 percent believe they spend the right amount of time on it. No one felt like they spent too much time on civics education.
- Elementary school leaders (61 percent) and middle school leaders (57 percent are more apt to believe they spend too little time on civics education than high school leaders (41 percent).
- More urban school leaders (69 percent) believe they spend too little time on civics education than rural/town (49 percent) and suburban school leaders (44 percent).
- More schools leaders for schools that have more than 50 percent of their student population is made up of low-income students (64 percent) compared to schools that have less than 50 percent (44 percent).
- Only 27 percent of school leaders believe that the Constitution and constitutional rights are the most important topics to emphasize in civics education. 31 percent believe current events and their connection to civics is the most important topic to emphasize. 22 percent think civic participation and voting is the most important thing to emphasize.
- 51 percent of school leaders believe that a focus on other topics that are tested on or emphasized presents a challenge to teaching civics.
- 51 percent of school leaders say that the Parkland school shooting impacted engagement at their school around civics-related issues like gun control.
The findings in this survey do not surprise me. Civics education is practically non-existent in elementary and middle schools. It has a more significant presence in high school because high schools typically offer government. What I find frightening, but not surprising, is that just a little more than a quarter of school leaders believe that teaching the Constitution and constitutional rights should be the topic most emphasized in civics education.
Read that again, let it soak in. Is it any wonder that we have seen millennials embrace socialism in droves? Is it any surprise that students want to jettison the First Amendment because somebody’s feelings may get hurt, not to mention the 2nd Amendment? When the focus is on current events and how they relate to civics then what is taught is driven by mainstream media and the teacher’s ideology.
This approach to civics education creates activists who have no constitutional framework for what they are advocating. The foundation for their activism their feelings about any given event.
Also, it is no surprise that a hyper-focus on STEM and assessments impacts how much time is spent on civics education.
In a nutshell, if you want your kids to learn about the Constitution, their responsibilities as citizens under the Constitution, and looking at public policy through the lens of the Constitution (let alone a Biblical worldview), you can’t depend on public schools.