Testimony to the MA Dept of Elementary and Secondary Education
February 20, 2014
The majority of young Americans are disillusioned with our government. More than half of young people generally do not vote in national elections and are unknowledgeable as to how it pertains to the political process. Many youth want to help improve their communities, yet do not see the political process as a way to do so. Overall, most youth lack the skills, knowledge, and motivation, to participate as civically active citizens.
Generation Citizen envisions a Democracy in which everyone participates. However, social studies and civics education are routinely de-prioritized and de-emphasized. Ignoring this key component of education will have long-lasting damaging effects if our youngest generation does not see the importance of, or have the skills to “be the change they wish to see” in our society.
Generation Citizen and our allies seek to end the marginalization of civics and social studies instruction. We urge the Board of Education and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to increase their emphasis on the importance of social studies and civics education through taking the following actions:
- Release a statement supporting the mission of many of the Commonwealth’s schools to raise responsible and knowledgeable citizens;
- We request your official presence at the Northeast Regional Conference on the Social Studies this April, as well as the National Council for the Social Studies Conference held in Boston this November. The young people of Massachusetts, our teachers, our administrators, and allies in education need to see you actively supporting the development and implementation of social studies curriculum;
- Perform an assessment of current civic education practices that would provide a clearer view of existing gaps so that implementation of passed legislation can address these gaps;
- Create a comprehensive plan to foster collaboration between many stakeholders including families, teachers, non-profit organizations, and private and public sector influencers of student civic life.
Just as when one takes a driver’s education class to gain practice behind the wheel before striking out on one’s own, our youth need education and practice being engaged citizens before their eighteenth birthday so that they can be at the helm of their civic responsibilities when they become adults. The DESE could play a critical role in fostering collaboration between civic and social studies education programs, institutions, and policy makers who influence the educational opportunities in which youth attain the skills, knowledge, and motivation to be civically engaged. It is the responsibility of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary education to provide this in-classroom practice for social studies and civics so that our young people stay active and engaged citizens for the entirely of their lives.
On behalf of Generation Citizen