America faces the reality of an unjust and unequal democracy.
Despite the idealistic promises of an American nation founded with declarations of equality, the political and economic system was historically designed to privilege, include, and prioritize the power and well-being of certain groups over others. This systemic marginalization of communities of color and low-income communities has resulted in a lack of equitable representation and political power at all levels of government, in addition to the perpetuation of policies that disadvantage, and often actively oppress individuals in those communities. As a result, our democracy is not as strong as it can and should be when all people can bring their unique perspective to the public sphere.
The road to a more equitable democracy begins with our schools—institutions whose historical purpose has always been to educate the next generation of citizens. And yet, civics education is not prioritized in our schools, and when it is taught, it often fails to inspire and engage young people to work towards a robust, participatory, and inclusive democracy.
POLITICS AND POLITICAL PARTICIPATION STILL MATTERS
But politics, and political participation, still matters – it’s the best way to solve the pressing issues of our time, from the economy to immigration. And we are not teaching young people the knowledge and skills necessary to be active citizens. The recent focus on STEM education and focus on standardized testing of core subjects, while necessary in some respects, has largely pushed the discipline of civics out of the classroom. We are not teaching young people the importance of being politically engaged.
A recent National Assessment of Educational Progress test demonstrated that only 23% of 8th graders were proficient in civics, the worst result in any subject besides history.
A CIVIC ENGAGEMENT GAP EXISTS
Students in low-income schools, when compared with just average socioeconomic status (SES) schools are 30% less likely to report having experiences with debates or panel discussions in social studies classes.
TRUST IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS DROPPED DRAMATICALLY
In 1973, pew found that most young people trusted the government to do the right thing
Now only 20% of millenials trust the federal government to do what is right most of the tme
So it’s no surprise that political behavior has declined, too. In the 2014 miderm elections, only 20% of 18-29 year olds voted - the lowest youth turnout on record.