tv Education Civic Engagement CSPAN March 8, 2018 4:15pm-5:44pm EST
started filming, we sent even more e-mails and after that, everything kind of fell into place. >> picking the amendment was actually pretty difficult. you know, 26 different amendments that we kind of looked at and evaluated and there's lots of controversy going on right now in the pub c public. we sat down, related to us at our age, what really affected us, we're headed into college next year. the 26th amendment, we were able to get in contact with some important people here in iowa and around the country so it really clicked for us and we got working as soon as we could. >> the top 22 winning entries will air on c-span in april. and you can watch every student cam documentary online at studentcam.org. up next, a forum about improving civics education and preparing students to become more politically engaged. former florida senator bob graham leads off, and talks about his efforts. the center for american progress
and generation citizen hosted this event recently. >> good morning, everyone, i'm executive vice president of external affairs here at the center for american progress. on behalf of everyone here at cap and our great partners at generation citizen, i want to thank each and every one of you for joining us this morning for this important conversation.
when we first planned this, we wanted to talk about the state of civic engagement among young people in our country, but now given the recent outcry, and horrific action at marjory stoneman douglas high school in parkland and those student who survived last week's horrific mass shooting and the fact that our keynote speaker holds such deep ties to the state of florida, i think today's discussion takes on a whole different meaning. now perhaps more than ever, our government and its leaders must prove that they're not just listening to our nation's young people, but that they're doing everything in their power to ensure that all students feel protected and valued in the eyes of our society. and one small step in that process can take place if we start to engage more young people at an earlier age. right now, only nine states
along with washington, d.c., require high school students to complete a full year of civics before they can graduate. this likely explains why, according to a recent study from c.a.p., that less than 25% of all students achieve proficient scores in the civics exams administered by the national assessment of educational progress. perhaps more importantly, america's civic engagement is at an all-time low. voter participation and public trust in government remains near historic lows, particularly with our nation's young people. less than half of millennials are voting. and only 18% of the public trusts their leaders in washington to do the right thing. this creates a vicious cycle where too many americans are
dissatisfied with their government and yet still fail to vote because they believe their voices will not be heard. the good news is that across the country, we can find inspiring activists, policymakers, educators, and others who are turning apathy into action. we are honored to welcome four outstanding panelists this morning who are committed to motivating and engaging america's students and we look bard to hearing their insights. but first, i have the great privilege ofd to hearing their insights. but first, i have the great privilege of introducing our keynote speaker today, senator bob graham. during his remarkable career as a public servant, senator graham made it his mission to make life better for folks in his home state of florida. he's served as a member of the florida legislatetuure, 38th governor of the state of florida and as a member of the united states senate.
and while in office, senator graham helped to redefine the term, civic engagement. as governor, he spent nearly 400 days working in a wide range of jobs from police officer to construction worker, from fisherman to teacher, so he could better understand the challenges facing the people he represented. since leaving the senate, senator graham has devoted his energy toward training the next generation of civic leaders. he's founded the bob graham center for public service at the university of florida, to teach young people the knowledge and skills of democratic governance. he's also opened the florida joint center on citizenship to strengthen civics education in the sunshine state, and to rally its legislature to require a civics education for all students. senator graham truly embodies what it means to be an agent of
change at this local, state, and federal levels, and we're so honored that he could join us this morning to talk about his experience. so please join me in a warm round of applause and welcome senator bob graham. winnie, thank you very much for that kind introduction and thank you for the opportunity that the center has given me to talk about a subject about which i'm passionate and i believe the nation is beginning to recognize its central importance. i have been so first, depressed, saddened, by what occurred at stoneman douglas high school a week ago today and then excited and enlivened by what the
students have done in response to that tragedy. one of the things that interested me is florida like most states stopped teaching civics in the 1970s. civics was restored to the curriculum of our schools by legislative action in 2009, became operational in 2011. the significance of those numbers is that this group of students who are now at stoneman douglas senior high school were the first wave of students in florida public education to have had civics in almost four decades. the fact that they are now empowered to take the actions that we are seeing and we hope we will see actions that result in real change in the near future, i think is a testimony to the value of exposing young people to their rights,
responsibilities and the competencies necessary to execute those rights and responsibilities as a member of a democracy. so we have a story within a story within a story occurring now. and a tragic event might be what it takes to achieve a renewal of america's awareness of the importance of preparing all of our people, but particularly our young people, for their life as citizen in a democracy. and this is occurring at a time when there are plenty of headlines that indicate the severity of the current circumstance. from the "new yorker," of august of last year, "is america headed for a new kind of civil war?"
a group of scholars were assembled after, actually, before charlottesville, to discuss the issue of whether america was headed for not a lee v. grant but a new form of civil war. 35% of the participants in this program felt that we were and that it would be within 10 to 15 years. david brooks, "the new york times," in january, opined on how democracies perish. vox brought together 20 of america's top political scientists to discuss democracy. they were scared. if current trends continue for another 20 or 30 year, democracy will be toast.
then finally, from the "boston globe" globe" seed corn of democracy, young voters. and the statistics that support those headlines are equally distre distressing. most americans have laittle knowledge of national, state, or local government. a 2017 survey indicated only 26% of americans could name the three branches of government. there's a declining acceptance of citizenship responsibility in. in 2016, u.s. voter turnout was 55.7%, which ranked us 28th among 35 developed democratic countries in the world. and local elections are even more distressing. between the beginning of this
century and ten years later, the number of persons in the 144 largest metropolitan areas of america who voted in local elections declined from 26% to 20%. in 2013, only 6.4% of americans belonged to an organization such as the league of women voters, or a kawanis club, or a pta that had as its goal community action. younger voters are in particula mean of governance. voter turnout in every presidential election since 1 4 1904, since 2004, the lowest generational grouping have been millennials. in 2012, whereas the oldest
generation, over 65, 72% of americansvoted, with millennials, it was only 46%. those all indicate the validity of these concerns about the state of our democracy as we begin the 21st century. why has this decline occurred? we're not alone. there has been a global movement away from democracy and toward authoritarianism. countries that we used to think of as having moved past being emerging democracies to being mature democracies such as a turkey, have now slipped back into authoritarian rule. i think we in america are legitimately concerned as to whether we may be on a similar
path. why is this happening? i think one of the reasons that the students in tallahassee today are living is the question of can democracy respond to the challenges of the day? we face this challenge throughout our history. there have been times when we've questioned whether the democratic processes were capable of bringing solutions to complex problems. in most of those instances, democracy has met the challenge. today, it is being challenged again. i think the students are asking the question, can something as fundamental as providing safety for young people in their educational settings be assured? is a challenge for democratic institutions to be able to
effectively answer? we await the determination as to whether that, in fact, occurs. i think that one of the fundamental reasons why we have reached this low state is the very fact that we sopped teaching civics in the 1970s. why did we do that? well, some of the scholars of democracy have attributed it to the fact that in that time period, there was an increasing polarization in america with the far left thinking that the civics education was being used to militarize students so they would be more accepting of the vietnam war. people on the far right feeling that civic education was being used to motivate students to engage in activities such as the civil rights movement, women's rights movement, other forms of
public display which they found to be offensive. it was one thing the extreme right and extreme left could agree on, and that was that civics was not a good idea so they began leading an effort, first at the local level, then at the state level, to eliminate civics. i graduated from miami senior high school in 1955. i had taken three one-year courses in civics between the seventh and the 12th grade and that was not unusual. that was, in fact, the national standard. i have 11 grandchildren, 9 of whom have graduated from high school. most of those nine students have had no civics. the most any of them have had is one semester. that's what has happened in two generations of an american
family. the -- what do we do to begin to reverse this decline? let me just share a personal story. in 1973, i was chairman of the florida state senate education committee. we were holding our hearings before the legislative session in schools around florida, and on this particular day, we were at wolfson high school. a middle-class high school in jacksonville, florida. we had a slot in the agenda for students to come and talk about their concerns, and on this particular day at wolfson, there were a large number of students all who had the same issue. probably one of the most longstanding issues in american public education.
bad food in the cafeteria. i was not surprised that the food was bad. it wasn't great at miami high, but i was surprised that they had come to the state senate to talk about cold pizza on friday. i asked are we the first people they'd talked to? they said, no, actually, you're the third. that made me feel better until i asked who were one and two? number one was the mayor of jacksonville who empathized with the students but said that it wasn't his responsibility. the second was the sheriff of duvall county who said the food was no doubt bad, but it wasn't criminal, wasn't his responsibility. we were number three. i told that story a few weeks later when i spoke to a group of civics teachers in miami that something was wrong if a group of bright high school students,
many of them about to graduate, had come to the conclusion that the mayor, the sheriff, or the state legislature, was the place you went for bad food. one of the teachers stood up and said, i am sick to death, sick to death of you politicians telling teachers how to do our work better when you don't know what in the hell you're talking about. and the only way you can find out is to actually go in the classroom and experience what it's like to be around indifferent students, to be around parents who won't show up for a parent/teacher conference. overly bureaucratic school administration and all those damn laws that you legislators pass that we have to live by. so she said the only way you can find out is to actually come in the classroom. i accepted her challenge, thinking that she had in mind a couple of hours on tuesday afternoon. when she called back, she had a somewhat different idea.
she said, bob, come to carroll city senior high school, almost sl intercity high school in miami, the day after labor day at 8:00 in the morning, report to room 208 and you will be teaching 12th grade american civics for the next 18 weeks. that's a little more than i quite bargained for. i figured, qu" a, i committed myself, so i was going to do it. "b," i needed help. i found a teacher who shared my ideas about how civics ought to be taught and he agreed to co-teach the class. we spent the summer working on a curriculum. the curriculum was built around answering the question, what does a citizen need to know to make democracy work for them?
what does a citizen need to know to make democracy work for them? that's the course that we taught for 18 weeks. it became a life-transforming event. i not only learned a lot about life in a modern american high school, i learned a lot about learning. the difference between learning by actually doing something, as opposed to learning by lecture or textbook. i also learned that some of that was transportable to other areas. and as winnie said, i started taking workdays, the one at carroll city was number win and i did another 407 over the next 30 years in order to feel that i
had a connectedness, an understanding, with the people of my state. the 30 years later, as i retired from the u.s. senate, i was a senior fellow at the kennedy school and i taught, as every fellow is required to do, although at harvard you don't teach unless you're a member of the faculty. you can lead, yoou can guide, yu can direct, whatever verb you want to use, but you can't teach. i did one of those things using a modified version of the same curriculum, what every citizen needs to know. that course was -- i found that the harvard undergraduates of the early part of this century were only mildly more civically illiterate than the high school students that i had taught 30 years earlier. some of the faculty at the kennedy school monitored the course and recommended that i
try to put the curriculum into book form. and the result of that was a book called "america: the owner's manual: you can fight city hall and win." the book is based around the ten competencies of effective citizenship. following the harvard model, each chapter begins with a case study of how citizen used that particular competence to achieve their objective and then it describes how you can master that skill. i hope those are some of the things that the students from stoneman douglas are doing today in tallahassee. i believe from that experience that not only is it critical to return civics to the classroom, but it's also critical it be returned in the right form. most of what is now civics is
based on the study of the institutions and processes of government. i remember one of the things that i had to do in one of those one-year courses was memorize the state capitals of all 50 states. and i still remember to this day that the capital of south dakota is minneapolis. i personally think that jefferson would have been very disturbed with this. in his early writings on the importance of public education to a new democracy, jefferson said that a primary goal of our schools should be to give to every citizen, and i emphasize the word, "every." he was very critical of the idea that civics was for an elite few. that every citizen should be
given the information needed to understand his duties to his neighbors and his country, and to discharge with competence. competence is a word that i believe is inadequately emphasized in most civics instruction. but to discharge with competence the functions confided to him by either. that is what i think should be the purpose of a civics education. and that -- what does that convert to? that converts to issues of skills, are we preparing students with the skills that will allow them to, first, discern that there is a problem or a missed opportunity, and then to exercise a series of
competencies necessary to overcome the problem or achieve the missed opportunity. i also believe that civics is like a musical instrument or a sport. you don't learn to play the piano by reading a textbook about the piano. you learn to play the piano by playing the piano. you learn civics by actually engagi engaging. in that course that i referred to as carroll city, the first day we organized the students into groups of three so that they would begin to learn some of the principles of small group interaction and select a topic that was of concern to them. they could have selected any topic that they wanted. human rights in china. but they had this constraint, that one-third of their final grade was going to be based on what they were able to do about
the problem. were they able to move the needle over the 18 weeks? that got them focused on things that were close at home. as an example, carroll city had a private water and sewer company and there had been a longtime feeling that the water that that company was providing to its customers was below grade. a group of three of students wanted to take on that issue. was it below grade? well, the first thing that they did is they went to the chemistry department of carroll city and they learned the standards that you have to utilize if you are going to challenge a product, in this case, water, as to its cleanliness and efficacefficacy. once -- because civics does not occur in a vacuum. it almost always requires knowledge of other topics in
order to be effective. with that understanding, they collected dozens of bottles of water according to the scientific standards. they then had to find out who was the decisionmaker. it was not difficult because in our federalist system, we distribute political responsibility broadly. in this case, they determined that it was the county health director who was responsible. they went to the office of the county health director with all their bottles, asked that the water be analyzed, and the finding was that, yes, the water was bad. and the county health director began issuing cease and desis orders to this private utility company. needless to say, those students
got a very high grade in terms of they moved the needle. i think that kind of practical learning is a key part of an effective civics curriculum. i also think it's important that in most cases you start local. as these students did with local water supply. i'm concerned, my -- i have a granddaughter who next week is going to participate in a model united nations. i'm a supporter of the united nations. it's an important global institution. but i really think that the students would probably better serve if they were going to spend a few days doing a model school board or model city council or an activity that was more relevant to their current lives. those are some of the principles that i think should be incorporated into a civics curriculum which should, in
turn, return to the american public school system. i think this is a critically important issue. we cannot owe another generation lost by failure to expose them to the basic principles and competencies of citizenship in a democracy. the students from stoneman douglas are, this morning, displaying what it means to society to have young people who are prepared to be not just passive spectators but active participants in making their community, their school, their state, their nation, a more democratic place for all its citizens. thank you. >> thank you so much, senator. we got time for one question for
the senator then we're going to bring up the panel talking about engagement and civics. it's exciting. can i -- great. this gentleman over here. there's a microphone. just state your name and maybe if you have san affiliation and the question. thank you. >> i'm bill with growing democracy. i love what you said about you don't learn to play the piano by reading a textbook. i was wondering do you agree with laurence tribe and other scholars who said we should lower the voting age so people studying civics can participate in elections? >> i -- i honestly don't have an opinion as to whether moving the voting age from 18 to 16, for instance, would be advantageous. probably in a spirit of enhancing democracy, i would say it wouldn't be a bad thing for maybe some states to use the
laboratory of democracy, which states are supposed to do, and experiment with that and see what the results were and then we could make a judgment as to whether it appeared to be an idea worthy of nationwide adoption. >> again, thank senator graham for your leadership, for your civics lesson to us this morning. and i'm going to invite my colleague and the panel to come up to the stage. thank you. >> great. thank you. >> thank you so much. >> wonderful. well, thank you, all, so much for being with us this morning to discuss this important event. this important issue. my name is cath lynn brown. i'm the vice president for education policy at the center for american progress. we're going to dive right in, doing a slightly different format. i'm not going to formally
introduced panelists at the outset but give a short history of their bio when i ask them an introductory question. i want to start with you, stephanie, stephanie stanford, chief of global policy at the college board and author of "civic life in the information age: politics, technology and generation x." and the former director of policy and advocacy of the program at the bill and melinda gates foundation. a deeptopic. i want to start with level setting, stephanie, tell us the difference between civics and history. >> so thank you so much, it's wonderful to be here and this is an issue near and dear to my heart. i thought the senator did a super job at really delineating the difference. i mean, its most basic level, history is what happened, what happened before. it's a study of the past. what civics is is something that's quite active, study of rights and duties and responsibilities, to be an effective citizen in a demock
sp can democracy. i showed the dais a number of times over this past year. the notion civics means sort of knowledge, knowledge, so you know what to do, and you know about these institutions, you have skills, you know how to engage with them and have agency which says you believe you can make a difference. >> wonderful. there's been a fair amount of research on the focus and senator graham alluded to this, on the focus on reading and math and even going back to the 1970s that has pushed out civics and other topics as well, art, music, history, physical education, so forth. i'm curious, stephanie, if you think that we have a new opportunity with the every student succeeds act, which creates a broader definition of school success to bring civics back into american education today. >> i think so. there certainly is the charge that a somewhat narrow focus on reading and math has pushed out
other topics and i think it clears that up, very clearly says, explicitly calls for a well-rounded education and calls out civics and government quite specifically. sort of to reestablish a broader range of educational experience and enriched curriculum. i also think to caution that the notion does imply there was some intent. i do think that the senator had an sort of an excellent articulation of the pressure that civic education, in particular, came under. but the idea that in focusing on reading, i mean, we have -- when we redesigned the s.a.t. two years ago, that's a test of reading, writing and math. one of the things we did is was to assure in that of the 7 million students who will take either the psat or s.a.t. each year that you would encounter an american founding document or some -- or another document of that sort of great conversation. and so the idea that whether it's the constitution -- whether you would find the constitution or the declaration or barbara jordan's testimony to the
judiciary declaration or during impeachment, the idea that a broad based instrument, that you would encounter through reading, that you would encounter these texts was great thing. so i think it's a great opportunity. there isn't anything in the focusing on reading and writing that you couldn't read those meaningful texts. >> that's an excellent point. thank you so much. i want to turn to juanita, where she was teacher, and currently national program and curricular development and serves on the generation citizens rhode island board. so another barrier we heard when we looked into this is most administrators want to remain neutral to politics in the classroom. and talking about current events and civics today that values all students experiences can be very
ch challenging. very charged environment. and i'd love to see how you dealt with this in your classroom and how you advise other teachers to deal with it through the curriculum you are developing. >> thank you. and thank you for having me here. in the classroom, one of the things i would do, and tras during the last election to be very neutral in the classroom. and we did have many discussions in terms of what was going on, you know, the national level. but i kept turning it back to what's going on in your local community. and in generation citizen, that was a very natural thing to do. so we emphasize and try to have students focus on hyper local issues, you know, very similar to what senator graham was referring to with his version of the curriculum many years ago which was real exciting that was
happening at that time. because we do something similar, we just labeled it action civics. so i've had students just come back to, what's going on in our community and how does it affect you. and once you start talking about how it effects you, a lot of the barriers that you could encounter talking about controversial issues kind of lessen and diminish. and then there are times when you are talking about things like police brutality where you need to have these hard conversations and have a safe space for your students to have them. and it's difficult work to do. so right now in my new role working with teachers nationwide, we try to provide guidance for them to have those conversations. and we are currently working on a revision to our curriculum and one of the top priorities is to ensure that we are looking at an equity framework and ensuring that all of our lessons incorporate those elements to
make sure that all of our students needs are being met. and, you know, every student component, not just developmental stage or learning ability, but any other type of diversity that we can consider. >> wonderful. thank you so much. i want to turn now to scott who is the co-founder and ceo of generation citizen where he has worked to expand action civics in schools, and empower young people to become engaged in their communities. scott, you saw a real need for students to become active in their democracy. can you tell us a little bit about the history and how you sequence the instruction in order to give all students the knowledge, skills, and agency that stephanie referred to earlier? >> yes. thanks so much for having us and this event. very timely issue and gratifying so see so many folks talking and
seeing the importance of that. senator graham did the solutions what we think about as well. i hoped cofound generation citizen with eight years ago. my own background i grew up son of foreign service officer, so grew up around the world. so senator graham see emerging democracies, i got to observe elections in kenya that worked in 2002. they are having trouble now. saw runoff elections in zimbabwe in 2008 and was motivated by the power of what happens when people come together to make a collective difference. and something that needs to be tended to. and when i got back to the u.s., this gets to the model question, extent the tropp, and i think carolyn will talk to this too, that the tropp of young people engaged is not true.
they talk about the millennial generation not engaged. that's not true. what can be true is the ways in policy in government to effect change. that can occur for host of reasons. one is they don't see democracy and government relevant to their lives. and it becomes this abstract concept that is not taught or taught through here are the three branches of government, take a test. and if you are going to teach civics in that way it's not going to be relevant to students. so generation citizen does is action civics, put action before civics changes everything. but it is really practicing the piano approach where students choose local issues they care about, and then learn about how local governments work through taking action on those issues. and it's a real school class. it's not after school activity.
it's not extra curricula but taking this just like math, science, english. so it will be issues like affordable housing in new york city, and taxes to provide affordable housing. and this goes to something snare graham said, every student wants to tackle cafeteria food. so we have a class in brooklyn that looked at cafeteria food. and through our curriculum we encouraged them to go to the root cause of the issue. why does it exist? not about raising awareness but how can you think about systemic root causes. so they actually found that in a lot of restaurants they have the a, b, c grades like sanitation grades, so new york schools actually have those grades, but they weren't required to be public. so they actually did go to the
state legislature but this was the right body to go to in this case and got the state legislature convinced them to pass a bill that now requires schools to publish their sanitation grades. now, that doesn't necessarily mean that right away that cold pizza will become gourmet, but i think what it did get them to realize is oh we care about cafeteria food in our school and we'll learn about how the state legislature works using that and making that relevant to our own lives and expanding that so it's more relevant in the community too. so that's how action civics works. very similar to the framework senator graham did. but really going in on local issues, feeling the cause, and all about how do we get civics and politics to be exciting when i saw emerging democracies growing up. and i do think we have a moment in this country and you'll see this in response to parkland, seeing the relevance of democracy in their own lives. and that's the knob that needs to be turned. >> thank you so much. i want to bring carolyn into the
conversation who is ceo of rock the vote sochlt this panel has been focused on what happens in schools and how educators can better prepare students to be active. but the graham was challenging us is prepare students throughout their lives to participate in their democracies. we have to look beyond schools and think about the whole continuum of how you engage young people. can you tell us what you've learned about youth engagement more broadly and specifically how rock the vote is contributing to helping young people? >> well, first, thank you for having us. i think as ben discussed on the panel already it's timely, and i hope if anything has come out of the tragedy in parkland, that it is that the students disabusing everyone in the country that we know at rock the vote, that young people are very engaged and they are very knowledgeable. and that with agency and with civic education and with
empowerment, that they actually will move things. i think the issue we see is in because of the state of civic education, that a lot of young people when they turn 18 or get out of their traditional institutions of higher education, that they are not prepared at all and they have inherited a very broken system. and so what we do at rock the vote is our mission is to build political power for young people, but that involves a lot of things. and civic education is part of that. so one of the pieces we have seen that young people are questioning the power of their vote in a very serious way and are seeing other avenues. so that's why you are seeing a lot more protests in the streets from issues like black lives matter to gun violence and a whole slew of different issues. so one of the things that i think civic education both in the schools and out of the schools can do a better job of
is it really tying their civic participation to the issues that impact their community. because i do think and impact their daily lives. because i do think there is la very big disconnect when they are 18 years old of how do these issues actually impact my day-to-day life. and if you can bring it down to the community level, it's both a strategy and a tactic to get them engaged. so that's sort of the first step is showing them that they can have impact with their vote or by approaching state senator or state representative or whoever their elected officials are that move the issue. but then also educating them on the registration and voting process, quite frankly. that should be part of civics education. it is different in every state. it is terribly confusing. and purposely so. so those are just some pieces that we work to do is guiding people through the process. >> wonderful.
thank you so much. now i want to get into some of the solutions, particularly some of the policy solutions and love to ask stephanie and scott one of the things that has emerged in states that i would encourage you to pick up is state of civics education, and we did a 50 state analysis of what the state of civics education is in every state. and one of the solutions is requiring students to take citizenship test. and i'm curious what your reaction is, will this get at low voter registration rates? we'd love to hear any of thoughts? >> i think the citizenship of, in preparation of this, i took it online this weekend. >> oh, wow. >> just tell you how i spend my weekends. so it's 100 questions. and it's quite rudimentary. like 17 states i believe have done this and actually met when i was in arizona before the
holidays, i met actually the state senator who saw that as a step one. so i think, one, it is it's step one. it's by no means the answer. no assessment. assessment simply is some sort of measure of knowledge. but the idea that this would somehow be too high a bar, just to give you an example of a couple of the questions that are on the test. we elect u.s. representatives for how many years? who was the first president? who is president now? so the test itself took about 15 minutes. and it was a series of questions that were as simple as this. so a couple of things. one, it would be i think a terrible idea if that were the end. right. that if the idea of civic knowledge you need to it be able to answer sort of 100 i would say elementary school type questions. but i do think that having that as a step one, because senator
graham talked about just how little civic knowledge there really is, that, you know, the idea that two thirds of americans cannot name the three branches of government. however, 75% can answer all three stooges and one maybe one judge on american idol. so maybe this isn't a terrible place to start. >> it's interesting, because almost a distinction between the policy and the politics of it too. i think that i do think that this is a time that requires innovative policy solutions to the problem. so we can talk through some of them. but i think that's important. and i think, i grew he wiagree stephanie, that every american should be table to pass the citizenship test. i don't think that's a high bar. i think the challenge is -- and i don't know if i have a particularly strong personal opinion on it, but the challenge is are schools going to use that
as step one, or because it's becoming assessed is that going to be the sort of end game. and so that's the fear, right. to sort of extend other analogies, you don't teach science just by teaching the periodic table. so it's important to know the periodic table which is probably inordinately harder than the citizenship test. but that's -- it's almost as you were saying, i don't know if the periodic table step one, but it's integrated into the over all teaching, right. so if we are saying after an effective civics course you should be able to pass the citizenship test, i think that that makes sense. i think the challenge is, and juanita can maybe weigh in on this too, are teachers going to see oh this is another requirement. i have to teach to this. and, therefore, not necessarily going to integrate everything else that makes a civics course effective. now, i don't know, but i think that's the fear that -- and we
have been working in legislation in massachusetts this has been integrated into it with everything else. when it's a stand alone it gets me a little more nervous. but i don't know how you would think about that it if that were in your class. >> okay, so i actually played around with it in a couple of years. and at the beginning of the semester i had my generation citizen class and social studies take the test. actually we had some teacher assistants and special educators in the classroom who took it along with us just for fun, i guess. and many of the adults didn't pass it. and many of the students obviously didn't pass it either. they are 8th graders. and then we did it like midterm, and then at the end of the school year. and i did see scores definitely went up. did anyone pass it? i think a few people, a few students passed it, but it was
kind of like set aside. it wasn't the focus for the year. that said, i don't think that it should definitely be a graduation requirement, because i know that's been floating around. because it sets our bar pretty low. i mean, the 15 minute test, that's pretty low. i this i nk my students were abo show their civic knowledge in different ways, talking about bills, reading a bill and pulling out the important parts of it, and then making suggestions as to how we could improve it. there is some way we can assess that to make this more increasing the standards and our expectations for our students. >> i was just going to say, i think building on that, there is the knowledge piece, right, we are talking about, there is knowledge needed. but there is also skills that go
into civic education. you have deliberation, collaboration, public speaking, writing, critical thinking, and those are increasingly important when we are talking about more hand more of what we are accessing is actually online. and where we need to be able to teach kids to discern what's real, what's not, how to think about different issues, especially as we are becoming more poalized as well. >> i think generation citizens is such an excellent model. i mean, if we think about that you need to know things and be able to a do things and be able to apply, where can you find the information or where these decisions are made. i love the idea of the notion you have to practice. it's a noncontroversial idea that you have to practice the piano. or free throws to get better at basketball. but somehow we don't think about it in education, but specifically civics education, and as i've gotten to know this
model, particularly that focus on localism that says, okay, here's a problem. how do i learn about that problem? how do i learn where it can be solved? and mechanisms of government? and doing that and doing something and having impact locally much more likely closer to a community, that builds own sense of agency. and i suspect you would find from your students, then once you do that is correct th, then recruit other people and be more active in my community, and i think that really animates a virtuous cycle of participation. >> one more thing on that. almost like i'd prefer a local citizenship test. because i do agree on that. so if you know that, you'll know who is the president is. and do you know which branch of the government the chief of
police were rather than do you know the three branches. we were talking about district attorneys. do you understand what the district dorian does, what their office actually allows them to do, as opposed to do you know what the three branches do. >> i love that idea of having a local citizenship test. oftentimes in my class i would have chart paper on the wall with the three branches. but under that we weren't looking at federal. weren't looking at state level. we were looking at where does the school board committee fit in. and how do they end up on the school board committee, because in many different communities, it's done differently. and who are these folks? let's learn about these people making extremely important decisions from cold pizza on friday to what am i wearing, to where is our money going to. and i think that helps make this whole idea of government and
democracy less abstract and less daunting and less scary for our students at a very early age. my first generation class was sixth graders. and they were upset about a lot of different things. and in the end, they realized they didn't really have a voice in our school. so they said, well, you know, how about a student council, how about we become part of a government, and they created student government, and started dealing with what do we think about the uniform policy, what do we think of our food and contacting the actual folks that deal with the food. so i think definitely having the focus on the local government is so much more powerful for our students in k-12. >> and is this, carolyn, where do we start with this? is this idea that you find out what drives students, what motivates them, what connects in
their lives, then you build a civics curriculum around that? that's sort of what i'm hearing but i wanted to directly ask. >> me? >> yes. juanita and carolyn, how do you tap into young people to get them engaged? what are the most powerful sources? >> it is issue driven. also the idea that they can have agency. so usually you can see that more on the local level in the community. so one of the things we focused on in 2017 was actually municipal elections. for instance. we provide an election center that breaks down what offices actually do, what the responsibilities are, who is running for them, we have links for the websites and social media, everything that you could possibly want. and we did that in 2016 as well. in 2016, we have 4 million users access the information. in 2017, it was obviously lower than that. but we also teamed up with local
groups to strdevelop voter guid that were issues impacting their community. so young people were designing questions and then contacting candidates and getting the answers to those questions. then we would post it onto our website. and because our name was associated with it, a lot of times the candidates were actually more responsive to them. >> i think that one of the things that we do really well, and there is always room for improvement, so we are working on it still, generation citizen is creating a democratic classroom culture. and that's ensuring that our curriculum and the space that it's taught in is very student centered, student driven. because it is an action base. it's project based learning, essentially, when you talk about it in educational terms. so ensuring that students have a confidence to speak, the vocabulary, the activities to
look at the different issues. so we start with creating a classroom constitution. how are we going to approach the semester? and we focus -- we emphasize that it is a living document. so throughout the semester there are points where, you know, we are in a classroom with 28 kids, it's not always going to be l e lovely all the time and roses. let's stop and go back to the constitution. what are we doing well? what do we need to work on? do we need to make edits? remind our self moving forward, creating sense of ownership. also comes from consensus building which i think we do a nice job of and really fun activity that turns into often a very lively debate, you know, with students sharing very personal feelings on many
different topics where they are deciding what issue they are going to focus on as the whole class for the entire semester. so you need some class buyin. and even when you don't have 100% of students, which i don't know if that's happened, 100 percent of students excited about the one issue they'll work on entire semester, we also focus on tapping into everyone's skills. you know, are you really good at writing? how do you feel about, you know, are you kind of extrovert and calling someone on the phone? do you like to do research? well, you could be on the research team. so we have the action research component that helps with that, too. so i think having, again, student led, student centered, and a space for everyone to be able to participate at some level during the semester make it a very powerful program. >> great.
so pulling up to the policy level, if you could design the perfect set of requirements, i'm curious as a state policy maker, stephanie, what would you put in place? sounds like you think the citizenship is reasonable baseline. would you add things on top? i know you are very well aware of all the different mandates and challenges and things that schools are trying to accomplish these days. >> i think, i mean, the campaign for civic mission of schools has got a policy agenda out, and i would highly recommend that. and it looks at how do you sort of teach, how do you teach civics and give meaningful responsibilities, how do you engage in the community, how do you have within school activities that develop agency. i think policies are pretty blunt instrument for this. just even where people very much agree here, and there is a lot of vitality and imagination within this sector right now, so
i think i would look at the campaign for the civic mission of schools. they have a lot of history and making real progress, a number of states are taking action right now. but to have some humility about getting sort of too muscular about policy, about policy right now. because i do think we are in a moment where, whether it's the events in florida, the increased participation, the innovation within classrooms, i think renewed interest in civic action, rather than trying to get one size fits all to really set base lines and allow for a lot of experimentation and variation. >> so i agree with all that. and so we actually, along with a broad coalition, are just releasing, not us, but bill in massachusetts. so sort of building on what's
been done in florida. what's been done in illinois. and it's pretty robust policy. and the way that this came about was talking to folks like eye civics which does online games for civics education which was started by justice sandra day o'connor. so cross collaboration. so what the bill will do is provide different options schools could get. so look at graduation requirements, students should take some civic project twice before they graduate. it will have that increase. it will increase funding for teachers to enga i go in this professional development because that doesn't happen right now. and also launch almost like a spelling befor civics in massachusetts just to get students thinking about this. so i think it's interesting, it's trying to be one of the more robust policies that are out there. and massachusetts legislature has made this a priority. so it will be interesting to see what happens.
second thing, and this goes more on stephanie's point, i think there is an opportunity just beyond state policy, which is important, and you've seen illinois and florida specifically engage in some interesting work, largely around funding and assessment. so i think these are two of the latter points. but we always talk about schools as having a historic calcific mission and purpose, but we don't really talk about what that means. and so i'm curious if there is a way to almost incorporate democracy in educating young people to be citizens as more of a framework for schools. so rather than just a stiff iks class. i think civics classes are important also relatively in sufficient. if all we are talking about is one class and that's what policy will do is get one class in 8th grade, i don't think that's enough. so the way we started thinking about it, this goes to what juanita talking about as far as culture, but how can schools
class that is are relevant, democratic and engage in the community harnds them. so that means in science class measuring the ph levels of water to see if it's safe. and in writing class writing letters to the editor. and math class traffic patterns to solve that. so thinking about it holistically as opposed to policy as blunt instrument, i think they both have to happen at the same time. >> i like how you said that. school i was teaching at in province, they are focusing on civic strand in the school, so trying to do what some of what scott just mentioned. so i'm excited to see what's that going to look like. and if any other schools around the nation are working towards that. because i can see how that could definitely hb a really great way to approach this. >> are there information sharing networks between states?
do you feel like there has been a surge of interest in this issue and people are talking? i think you are probably a lot of these conversations, scott. >> a lot of talking. >> there is it a lot of interest in it. i don't have a sense of there being a lot of great robust infrastructure yet to have states collaborate. i think you've seen among the service groups, national service groups, you've seen their coalition for service, your idea. we've had conversations with em this sort of the civic education committee. if we believe you need sort of knowledge skills, can we bring the knowledge people together with the skills and agency people. and i think very much to what scott was taking about, which is how can you then have these be authentic experiences. i love scott's perspective which was is to work on real world problems because we see young people like to do that.
sort of the great progress debbie meyer said young people need to come into a range of adults they can see themselves becoming. and high school has become insular. and implicit what each of us are talking about is some way to better engage young people and the problems in their communities, that's a way to build relevant -- tie the knowledge to relevant experience and sense of agency that they can and should be involved in problem solving in their communities. >> you mentioned something i wanted to pick up on, which is cord of the knowledge piece is information you are getting is accurate and that you can discern fact from fiction from opinion. and how -- we have obviously seen a prevalence of fake news, and this is a challenge that young people are facing. how does civics education help solve that problem if at all? scott? >> that's the issue of the day. i mean, i do think that media literacy absolutely has to be a
component of civics education in trying to figure out how you distill real news from news that might not be as accurate. that's something, again, i think focusing on the local is really important. i think i read a stat the other day that 65% of millennials get their news from facebook. so that's a fact. so i do think there is more news media that needs to happen. i also think, not to badger on, but i think the company's and social media networks need to do a better job and recognize their responsibility. because just seeing it as open marketplace, it's going to put too much pressure on educators and young people themselves to it be able to distill that. so both of those have to happen at the same time. and it's interesting, but i do think there is as civic agenda figure out how you regulate, i'm punching above my pay grade, but
how you regulate some of those folks so they see it as part of their mission. because if you have 60, 70% of young people getting their news from facebook, they have an obligation to figure out how to help distill that too, at least in my opinion. >> carolyn, you've done a lot of work in digital agency, any information on this fake news and how we can help solve it? >> i don't, like scott, hope that some of the social media platforms take responsibility and do what's right. but i also think that the action civics model of creating and helping students build critical thinking skills and deliberating and figuring out what is opinion and what is fact and what is fake are important. i also, one thing we haven't kind of discussed here, but i think can come into that, is the support that we need to provide teachers who kind of take on things that may in their community seem more political or maybe political.
and i think that's a real challenge that a lot of teachers are facing. and need to beef up the districts to support them. but in terms of digital, it is something that is not going away, and needs to be addressed. and there are great groups doing a lot of research on this, but needs to be better incorporated with civic education definitely. >> so we don't have a ton of time left before we get to your questions. and i want to do a quick round-robin. carolyn you touched on this in terms of supporting teachers. we'd love to hear any advise you have for educators or policy makers as they are thinking about this issue. does anyone want to start? carolyn? >> i just have one piece that we haven't actually addressed that i think we all work in so deeply but isn't part of the conversation is just inequity in civic education. and i think win ee sanie said a quarter of young people pass it,
but wealthy white students were four to six times more likely to be considered proficient. so that needs to be part of the conversation if we are having assessments and having these, then supporting resources really need to go to the places that are needed and have equity. >> incredibly important. thank you for under scoring that. >> and along with that, we also know black, brown students and students in low income areas, a lot of the urban areas, have never had, and will never have experience things like a debate, classroom debate, or like mock trials or any of these wonderful things that we know creates critical thinkers or help create critical thinkers. and i think that in terms of supporting a teacher, i know i took on a lot more than i could probably handle a lot of times trying to make sure my students had access to and were exposed
to as much as possible during that time, that short amount of time they were with me, and i wish i could have done more. and i no he that's a big struggle. because if you are a teacher, you are here for a reason, and you mean well, and you want to do the best. but we simply often don't have the capacity to do it. so creating that for us is just critical in order to keep moving civic education into, you know, what we want it to look like and to ensure that we do have future active students. >> such an important point. >> i think the last thing, and this goes off these comments, and we didn't touch on this as much, but just ensuring that we are listening to the students and students voices are omni present in these conversations. so when asking what the best type of civic education is, ensuring that we are listening to them when we are talking about news literacy.
i don't even know the platforms young people are engaging on these days. so actually listening to them and figuring out what they are engaging on is really important. and i think it goes back to what's happened in the last week. and i think what's been so powerful about students from florida is that they have made themselves be seen as legitimate actors. they were seen as legitimate actors from the start, but their specific knowledge on this and their passion. and i think this is halls what i believe in the power of young people, their ability to see the world what it can be rather than what it is. whereas when we get into these gun control debates there is extensive stagnation, we know how this is going to end. they are not seeing that like that right now. and that's something incredibly powerful. so making sure we are not talking about civic education doing to young people, but working with them to coconstruct the democracy that we want rather than the one that we have today. >> stephanie, any final thoughts?
>> the theme of listening, a number of us was at the museum in september, a day long discussion of civic education, and one of the highlights is justice sotomayor spoke at the end of the day, taken over the chair of the board of i civics which is what justice o'connor, the group she started. and gave a lovely talk. and walked through the crowd and took questions. i mean, sort of one on one. and there was a moment, there were young people there, and so i want to say, yes, we need to listen to the young people. but also we need to listen to each other. so there was a young undergraduate who was just sort of like seething in response. and she said how can you, said to the justice, her question was, how can you talk about all of this free speech when so many
people are just so wrong? what do i do? >> and by the way that's exactly what happened in that. the adults were like, okay. and she put her happened on that young women's shoulder and said, listen, and i do think that as we talk and consider knowledge, agency, voice, protest, that the flip side of that is that, yes, we listen to young people, but we also listen to each other. >> great way to end. thank you so much. we would love to take your questions. if you could raise your hand and state your name and organization you are here with, that would be terrific. this woman in the front row, please. >> davis president of washington teachers union and i want to thank you all of you, and senator, for your comments. i am a teacher of 40 years in d.c. i was at one of the schools involved in the brown case about seven years ago when i discovered that the school was
subject of building v sharp and of course i was excited telling my sixth graders about the case and they told me they weren't interested. the school was defacto resegregated deplorable rundown 53 years after brown. they complained about rundown. one of the sixth graders said what are they celebrating? sthe are celebrating this? we have the same books that were here in 1953. but the kid went before the city council and shared their thoughts. and i asked them to just write your council members and we'll go before the council. we did. they responded on d.c. cable. and by congressional black caucus on the 50th anniversary of brown and said can the kids come down and talk about the boling case. sure. they thought they would come to regurgitate the time line. they talked about the deplorable
conditions of the school 50 years after brown. and sitting in the room with nancy pelosi who asked them to come, as a result, which was slated for demolition, was restored, modernized and now sitting there inward 7 of d.c. and students of course, and i do concur with what you said, after that project, taking the information that they learned in class, and using it to solve a real world problem for them, empowered them to believe they could do anything else. and they did. they organized pta. and i learned from them that applying, teaching them how to apply the knowledge, and knowing that i cannot remain neutral in my classroom no matter how hard i tried was going to be the key, and allowing them to cite the problems in na problems in their community. and i do appreciate the message you brought this morning.
because we have really lost contact with the need for civic engagement. civics in our schools, every school, and especially in these times. so thank you. >> thank you. >> gentleman in the second row. >> i have to agree with all. bill klein retired army physician. with one maybe one exception 50 years ago i never missed a vote. and i like to use the term scoff a low voters. they are those that can vote but don't. most of the people are you talking about aren't old enough to vote. but in the programs of your subjects i would put citizen responsibility at the center with book learning, education at one side, and experience at the other side. but my question is we talk a lot about doing things. but how do you in still the sense of responsibility in voters? you can do what australia did and require people to go to the polls. you can't require them to vote. but they have to get a ballot. or something more than that? but i really believe the main
result we have from the government is almost 40% who are eligible but didn't vote in the 2016 elections, so that's why i put responsibility at the front and scoff a law voters responsible for what's happening who did vote on either side. >> and i'm curious -- >> carolyn, go ahead. >> one thing i wanted to say ton that which is interesting from education perspective, i think we have gotten too individualized in education at large so we use the collaborative spirit that is necessary for individual responsibility. and so that i think from education perspective, like one of the things we try to do is try to create that we are in this together, our success is dependent on all of our success. >> i think collective success is one of the mantras we try to push forward. the challenges, things have changed a lot in 50 years.
and it is, one, difficult to say to a young person, particularly a young person of color, it's your responsibility to vote when the system doesn't work for you. right. and we have to face that reality, because millennial generation, generation x is much more diverse than older generations. so the motivation, the persuasion to tell them that voting actually matters is very different than -- it's changed over the years. in addition to that, you have civic education going down. our system is much more complex and especially when you talk about registering to vote and actually voting for young people. when you talk about voter id laws that are systematically made so that young people can't participate in our system. particularly young people of color. it's harder to say it's your responsibility, get over it, and participate in a system that you
are inheriting that's already broken. so i want to put that out there. but it is something i think because -- and 2016, quite honestly, and some people actually made the argument even harder, because you saw in the primary young people overwhelmingly voted for bernie. he didn't win in the primary. tan then you saw young people overwhelmingly vote for hillary. and she didn't win, right, even though she won the popular vote. so having the sense of i can make a difference, even when you don't think you can make a difference is really hard to get over. >> i also wonder if, i don't think this is something we've actually done, and i'm sure it's at the back of scott's mind at some point, is tracking the students that not just actually
engage in action civics during their school career, whether it's with us or any of the other wonderful organizations that also do action civics, and seeing whether or not they are feeling more responsible and showing up to vote. i wonder if there is ita connection there. i would imagine so. there are students that i still keep in contact with that i know are just more aware of what's going on and are more apt to take action on things, whether very small or larger scale. so i wonder if there could be a connection to that as well. >> i also -- there are a group of behavioral stein advertises that studied young people and why they are less likely to vote. not just that they are young. they are new voters. so without the civic education, without any sort of education of how to participate, and then with increased barriers, they,
one, over estimate the process. they feel very uncertain about how the process actually works. like if they actually can make impact. and then, two, they really underestimate their political intelligence and knowledge and think, i mean, in some ways someone might say it's responsible, but that they don't have the expertise to really participate. so that's something also that like, right, and we actually at rock the vote did, if you go to our website, we analyzed each state and assigned them a report card how they do in voting laws and policy. and which states promote young people voting and which ones don't. it's sad. >> i think the question of research is a good one. what are the things? if sort of most basic civic responsibility is to vote, then are there -- do these kinds of, whether it's the ap government in politics course, or
generation civics, do any of those actually impact? and i this i that's a perfect research agenda and one we'll likely undertake. >> one last thing, this was to senator graham, i do think the floegs of lowering the voting age to 18, that's something you are seeing everyone around here lowering the voting age. there is active bill being done in washington d.c. we worked in a bill in san francisco. and talking about research, there are countries around the world that do this tand the voting rates are more. so if you are able to get the students to vote in school, demystify, it would enhance and inspire more civic education. so i do think that's worth thinking about something that's
sensical and enhance civics education as well. >> i agree. there is even a stepping stone allowing preelection to 16 and 17 years olds. >> that's a great ideas. and i believe the first vote and so i bloo eve that has an impact. time for one more question. the young man in the back. >> hello. name is alexander hutton. no current affiliations, just recent graduate of political science. there is a lot of talk in voting and how it's the most basic civic fundamental right. in short of doing something like australia mandatory at least showing up to the ballot box, statistics don't affirm that voting matters. you have 1 in 60 million chance of being influential vote. in presidential election you have 1 in 100 million in
statewide. recent school board election in my hometown of 1,200 not a single vote would have influenced that. so how do you tie these ideas together when you look at the statistics and they say that voting is something you should partake in, but when the statistics aren't there to back it up, how do you continue to make your argument? >> i think al gore and hillary clinton might disagree with that assessment. but i'm curious what other people think. >> so this is exactly the type of argument that you have -- or the challenge that you have to overcome. i think a couple things. one, this is where local elections actually are really important. because there are fewer people voting and you can actually make a difference with fewer votes, right. i would also say virginia, the legislature, i don't know if you guys all saw that. obviously, i think you all did. one vote, right. if you broke down the votes in
states like michigan or pennsylvania for the presidential election 2016, and you broke them down by precinct, it comes down to a few votes per precinct. so i think we have to do a better job of showing people how their one vote actually matters. but it does certainly matter. >> the one -- i haven't seen this in the u.s. presidential elections, but we did a random when brexit happened and because young people overwhelmingly voted against brexit. and said if young people had voted average rate, so the rate of every other demographic, brexit would not have passed. so that's like there is the ability to actually change things. and, you know, yeah, the virginia legislature is in the hands of republicans because of one vote. >> right. >> well i really want to thank generation citizen and scott and juanita being our partners putting this event on. and all of the excellent pan
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